Professor Alan Riach - Scott, World Literature and the Prospect of Scotland

On Thursday 8th September 2016 we had a talk by Professor Alan Riach on Scott, World Literature and the Prospect of Scotland. He was introduced by our Chairman, Prof. Peter Garside: 

I believe I have met Alan Riach twice before. Once when giving a talk at Glasgow, where we had a meal afterwards along with Douglas Gifford (a past President of ours), at which I recall being treated very nicely while perhaps teased a little for holding Anglocentric views. Then we met again at an award of ASLS [Association for Scottish Literary Studies] Fellowships held at the National Library in 2013. Ronnie Renton was there too helping hand out the certificates rolled up in tubes, and in which also was placed a poem for the occasion by Alan. I must admit to having been pretty much ‘agin’ such awards until actually getting one; and Alan’s poem helped make that adjustment, conveying vividly how all the deep-digging, sometimes seemingly futile work that goes into archival scholarship might after all have real value. I must thank him again for providing that encouragement.

           Now already two main factors have been given away about Alan—that he works at Glasgow University, and is a poet as well as a scholar. To flesh these out a bit:

           He is currently Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University; was born in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, in 1957; took his first degree from Cambridge in 1979; completed a PhD in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow in 1986; and worked in New Zealand as an academic from 1986-2000. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Representing Scotland in Literature, Popular Culture and Iconography (2005) and Arts of Independence: The Cultural Argument and Why It Matters Most (2014). He is the general editor of Hugh MacDiarmid’s collected works and co-editor of The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Scottish Literature (2009). His past books of poems extend from This Folding Map (1990) to Homecoming (2009). Among other activities he has published highly-praised English-language versions of the great Gaelic poems of the 18th century. The Winter Book, his latest collection of poems, is scheduled for publication in 2017.

           His talk today, ‘Scott, World Literature and the Prospect of Scotland’, promises a wide-sweeping assessment of Scott’s cultural significance. Unlike with several Scott scholars, whose approach I think I could predict fairly confidently, Alan is a bit more of unknown quantity, at least with regard to Scott, and I’m not by any means entirely sure what he’s going to say, so doubly look forward to what’s in store for us this evening.