Uneasy Subjects

Postcolonialism and Scottish Gaelic Poetry

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Scottish and “Celtic fringe” postcolonialism has caused much controversy and unease in literary studies. Can the non-English territories and peoples of the British Isles, faced with centuries of English hegemony, be meaningfully compared to former overseas colonies? This book is the first comprehensive study of this topic which offers an in-depth study of Gaelic literature. It investigates the complex interplay between Celticity, Gaeldom, Scottish and British national identity, and international colonial and postcolonial discourse. It situates post/colonial elements in Gaelic poetry within a wider context, showing how they intersect with socio-historical and political issues, anglophone literature and the media.
Highlighting the centrality of Celticity as an archetypal construct in colonial discourses ancient and modern, this volume traces post/colonial themes and strategies in Gaelic poetry from the Middle Ages to the present. Central themes include the uneasy position of Gaels as subjects of the Scottish or British state, and as both intra-British colonised and overseas colonisers. Aiming to promote interdisciplinary dialogue, it is of interest for scholars and students of Scottish Studies, Gaelic and English literature, and international Postcolonial Studies.
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Biographical Note

Silke Stroh studied English and Gaelic at the Universities of Aberdeen and Frankfurt; and is currently Assistant Professor of English, Postcolonial and Media Studies at the University of Münster (Germany). She has published on postcolonial theory; interdisciplinary and comparative postcolonial criticism; national identities in the British Isles; as well as anglophone Scottish, Asian British, African and Canadian literature. Other research interests include diaspora studies and colonial settler cultures.

Review Quotes

"It is one of the outstanding achievements of her study that she also argues for the incorporation of new discourses like, for example, ideas of transculturalism or transperipherality into postcolonial theory which marks a decided shift away from overemphasizing colonial legacies to an analysis of dominant patterns in more diverse forms of cultural contact.
[...]
her comprehensive study is also a convincing plea for an interdisciplinary approach that makes use of the latest developments in theory and is definitely a welcome and highly recommended contribution in the fields of Postcolonial, Scottish and Gaelic Studies alike."
– Anke Bartels, in Representations and Contexts: A Transdisciplinary Journal of International relations and Cultural Studies 3 pp.1-3
Full review available at: http://www.wissens-werk.de/index.phph/rac/article/viewfile/190/274

"Stroh’s methodology is to examine Scottish Gaelic poetry from its beginnings to the present day through detailed analysis of individual poems (with English translations of all quotations) in light of postcolonial theory and practice. Employing this strategy with confidence and skill, Stroh demonstrates at numerous points the usefulness of postcolonial theory and criticism in understanding Scottish Gaelic poetry.
[…]
Stroh concludes with the hope that her book ‘has helped to demonstrate that a considerable number of discourse patterns which are commonly associated with overseas colonial and postcolonial frameworks can also be identified in negotiations of Celticity, Gaelicness and Scottish national identity – and that Gaelic poetry plays a significant part in these negotiations’ (329). When readers reach this point they are likely to feel this thorough and comprehensive study has achieved its goal."
– Graham Tulloch, in Transnational Literature 7.2 (2015). Full review available at: http://fhrc.flinders.edu.au/transnational/home.html

“Unpacking the potential meanings of Gall in Gaelic poetry is crucial to understanding the intentions of the author and the reception of the text by contemporary audiences. Stroh follows a line of scholars in this enterprise, and a strength in her analysis is that she often provides multiple possibilities rather than a single, fixed interpretation.”
– Michael Newton, in Scottish Gaelic Studies 29 (2013), pp. 301-303

"Arguing clearly with a good grasp of the theory but a focus clearly on the primary texts, Silke Stroh made her case. And in the process she introduces the reader to many fascinating little gems of Scottish literature which are all-too little known."
- Graeme Dunphy (Regensburg), in Journal for the Study of British Cultures Vol.19.1 2012, pp. 102-5.

"In the end, Stroh's book is more than an important contribution to the debate about the relationship between Scottish Studies and postcolonialism. It is a convincingly argued testimony to the possibility of thinking beyond the alleged limits of theory, in this case postcolonialism, and to test its basic ground by developing it into another field of study. For this, and for its combination of in-depth analysis with accessibility of subject matter, Uneasy Subjects is certain to excite a large audience, if not to become compulsory reading for anybody interested in Scottish and postolonial studies."
- Kirsten Sandrock (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen), in Scottish Literary Review 4.2, 2012, pp. 213-215.

"This is a book encouraging us to reflect on what hybridity, transculturalism and multiculturalism really mean. […] I believe that most readers would agree with me that Silke Stroh has succeedded in her attempt 'to provide an overview of various issues and texts which are central to the question of whether Scotland and its Gaidhealtachd have a place in Postcolonial Studies, and whether postcolonial approaches have a place in Scottish Gaelic Studies' (p.339). Ultimately, Uneasy Subjects is strongly commended both to Scottish-Studies scholars and to postcolonial literary critics and theorists."
- The Bottle Imp (www.thebottleimp.org.uk)

"as an analysis of Gaelic discursive prose, the book is a tremendous addition to the existing English-language literature. The author deserves high commendation for the centrality of Gaelic in the tekst. The book also serves to remind us that in a truly international market of scholarship, we in the academy should be paying increasing attention to research generated outside of Britain and the United States. If we are sometimes (inaccurately) tempted to declaim the stagnation of Scottish history, works such as this, or Clotilde Prunier's Anti-Catholic Strategies in Eighteenth-Century Scotland (2004), remind us of the unquestionable benefits of heterogeneous discourse. Stroh's Uneasy Subjects seeks to generate debate on the merits of conceiving of Scotland as an internal colony or a postcolonial nation, something even the most vitriolic nationalists have been reluctant to consider.
With the constitutional place of Scotland likely to undergo some sort of change in the course of the next few
years, few literary studies can be as welcome or as timely"
- Matthew Dziennik (The New School University) in Eighteenth-century Scotland 26, Spring 2012, pp. 30-31.

"Regardless of some minor criticisms I have, this is a ground-breaking volume which deserves to find a wide audience. I concur with Stroh that Celtic Studies, and the various constituent branches such as Scottish Gaelic Studies, could revitalize themselves by integrating such modern approaches and demonstrating to the uninitiated that they are not restricted to medieval or folkloric topics, and thus broaden their appeal (p.34). Doing so may also facilitate dialogue with communities of scholars and citizens examining the 'transculturality' of an increasingly globalized world negotiating complex imperial and colonial legacies."
- Michael Newton (St Xavier University), in IRSS 37, 2012, PP. 150-154.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Colonial beginnings? Celticity, Gaeldom and Scotland until the end of the Middle Ages
The capitalist nation state and its “civilising missions”: Gaelic identities in flux
The emergence of an anticolonial voice?
Mission accomplished – perhaps too well? Romanticism and noble savagery
When the civilising mission fails: racism, resistance and revival
Discourses of decolonisation? Cultural cringes, discursive authority, rewriting history, and nationalist poetry
Language matters, indigenous cultural values, education, and direct postcolonial alignments
Against traditionalism and nativism? Pluralism, innovation, internationalism and hybridity as alternative decolonising strategies
Conclusion
Bibliography
Index

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