Pastoral optimism at Enlightenment's Frontier: James Hogg's Highland Journeys

Deans, A. (2018) Pastoral optimism at Enlightenment's Frontier: James Hogg's Highland Journeys. In: Benchimol, A. and McKeever, G. L. (eds.) Cultures of Improvement in Scottish Romanticism, 1707-1840. Series: Enlightenment world. Routledge: New York, pp. 132-151. ISBN 9781138482937

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Alex Deans’s chapter reads the early Highland tours of James Hogg as evidencing some of the contradictory aspects of improvement’s inscription within Romantic literature, with particular attention to the fundamental subject of agriculture. Romanticism, in this account, involves a vexed and disruptive engagement with Enlightenment discourses of modernity—particularly the logic of stadial history—that effects a series of dislocations in both space and time. In Hogg’s treatment of the Highlands, the pastoral mode becomes the prime motif for this confusion, signifying at once an ideal past and a possible future promised by the conversion of the landscape to sheep walks. Worryingly, neither aspect of Hogg’s doubled marshalling of the pastoral—at once Arcadian ideal and practical scheme of improvement—seems to safeguard the local population of the Highlands, who occupy an ‘uneasy conditional state’. Deans rewinds from Hogg’s well-known persona as the ‘Ettrick Shepherd’ to a time when his ironic self-construction was only partly developed, closer to the simple category of ‘shepherd’. Surveying a Highland landscape that—as in Leask’s account—had frustrated manifold projects of improvement during the second half of the eighteenth century, Hogg offers up a vision summarized by the paradoxical category of, in Scott Mackenzie’s term, ‘pastoral modernity’. This condition, which takes the logic of ‘uneven development’ to a perverse extreme, collapses into ‘pastoral anachronism’ in the processes of clearance that are the chilling subtext to Hogg’s reflections, threatening a landscape locked into ‘deathly stasis’.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Deans, Dr Alexander
Authors: Deans, A.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
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