Project Update

Despite the current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Regional Romanticism project is now heading into its final phase. I am pleased to say that section 4 of the work was completed early this year, resulting in a draft monograph chapter on John Mactaggart’s 1824 Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia. That part of the research was really good fun – Mactaggart’s book is a wonderfully anarchic example of the interest in writing about place in the 1820s.

I have managed to dig up a range of previously-unnoticed materials around Mactaggart and his Gallovidian Encyclopedia and this book chapter will represent the most in-depth scholarly engagement with the subject to date. The Encyclopedia exists within the fascinating culture of popular antiquarianism in the early nineteenth century. It played a meaningful role in emerging scholarly and pseudo-scholarly practices including around folklore, dialect study and local history. Yet Mactaggart’s attitude to regional culture is poetic above all, presenting a wildly imaginative geography of southwest Scotland and especially his own Kirkcudbrightshire.

Kirkcudbrightshire’s location in the British Isles highlighted in red

I was looking forward to presenting on parts of this research at a number of events that have unfortunately now been cancelled in line with government advice. I did it least get a chance to talk about Mactaggart at the National Library of Scotland back in January.

I am now working towards the completion of section 5 of the project, which is on poetry. This book chapter, as I currently envisage it, will feature work on Robert Burns, Allan Cunningham, Susannah Hawkins and William Nicholson, all poets who had complicated relationships to the landscape and culture of southwest Scotland.

Meanwhile, another one of the Regional Romanticism knowledge-exchange activities has been progressing. When planning the project, I budgeted for an artist commission without a definite vision of exactly what form this would take. As things progressed and I discussed possibilities with arts organisations in Dumfries and Galloway, the most exciting idea that emerged was to produce a comic book engaging with some of my research.

I will write more about this aspect of the project in a future post, but additional grant funding from the Galloway Association of Glasgow and from the University of Glasgow’s Knowledge-Exchange fund, added to British Academy funds, has enabled me to work with the Dumfries-based illustrator Hugh Bryden on a comic book about the life of John Paul Jones. The book will be delivered to primary schools and libraries in the region as soon as the current international emergency allows.

An image from Don’t Call Me a Pirate (Shivering Timbers, 2020) comic book by Gerard McKeever and Hugh Bryden.

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