Bella Caledonia: Woman, Nation, Text looks at the widespread tradition of using a female figure to represent the nation, focusing on twentieth-century Scottish literature. The woman-as-nation figure emerged in Scotland in the twentieth century, but as a literary figure rather than an institutional icon like Britannia or France’s Marianne. Scottish writers make use of familiar aspects of the trope such as the protective mother nation and the woman as fertile land, which are obviously problematic from a feminist perspective. But darker implications, buried in the long history of the figure, rise to the surface in Scotland, such as woman/nation as victim, and woman/nation as deformed or monstrous. As a result of Scotland’s unusual status as a nation within the larger entity of Great Britain, the literary figures under consideration here are never simply incarnations of a confident and complete nation nurturing her warrior sons. Rather, they reflect a more modern anxiety about the concept of the nation, and embody a troubled and divided national identity. Kirsten Stirling traces the development of the twentieth-century Scotland-as-woman figure through readings of poetry and fiction by male and female writers including Hugh MacDiarmid, Naomi Mitchison, Neil Gunn, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Willa Muir, Alasdair Gray, A.L. Kennedy, Ellen Galford and Janice Galloway.
Kirsten Stirling teaches English literature at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. She has a PhD from the University of Glasgow. Her two main areas of research specialization are twentieth-century Scottish literature and the poetry of John Donne.
Bella Caledonia is exemplary in demonstrating that it is not necessary to dismiss debates about Scottish nationalism or fractured identity. They can be considered beyond reductive generalisations of homogenous nation. Stirling instead shows these issues can be opened up and, more importantly, supported by sustained textual analysis. Stirling’s concise, focused remit and accessible book will engage a wide range of scholars, and is a welcome contribution that offers a new avenue in which to interpret twentieth-century Scottish literature." – Jacqueline Ryder,
University of Strathclyde, UK, in:
The English Messenger 23/1 (Summer 2014), pp. 94-95
"Stirling’s […] view is that the Scotland-as-woman figure has now become ‘strangely out of place’ in contemporary culture. […] Stirling’s assertion can only be reassuring, especially to feminist critics and a younger generation of Scottish critics keen to cast off overly reductive stereotypes of the national character and culture." – Eleanor Bell,
University of Strathclyde, in:
English Studies 93/2 (April 2012), pp. 249-50
Engendering the Nation Chapter One:
Woman as Nation Chapter Two:
The Female Figure in the Scottish Renaissance Chapter Three:
The Female Nation as Victim Chapter Four:
The Monstrous Muse Chapter Five:
Women Writing Nation Bibliography