CFP: Popular Culture in Scotland and Abroad (13 October 2018)

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Scottish Studies Fall Colloquium 2018:

Popular Culture in Scotland and Abroad


Hosted by The University of Guelph Centre for Scottish Studies and the Scottish Studies Foundation


Warlocks and witches in a dance;

Nae cotillion brent-new frae France,

But hornpipes, jigs strathspeys, and reels,

Put life and mettle in their heels.

A winnock-bunker in the east,

There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;

A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,

To gie them music was his charge

-Robert Burns, Tam o’ Shanter


The popularity of Robert Burns, the “Ploughman Poet” highlights the way in which Scottish popular culture has been central to the construction and maintenance of Scottish national identity. In the aftermath of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, The Guardian posed the question: “What does it mean to be Scottish?” and sought their answer in children’s books which were set in Scotland, which included Scottish characters, or whose authors drew on Scottish culture and heritage (26 Aug 2014). The question of cultural identity have long preoccupied historical and contemporary Scots and their descendants, who have often searched for answers in forms of popular narrative and popular print culture.

Popular literature is produced by and for the masses and is, by definition, often accessible to a large percentage of the population. Though literacy and access have waxed and waned over time, this literature nevertheless reaches beyond its initial readership to resonate with and respond to the ideologies of the society that produced it. In the nineteenth century, especially, Edinburgh and Glasgow served as hubs for popular literature that went on to be read in Scotland and abroad including newspapers, chapbooks, broadsides and other materials. Approximately 200 000 chapbooks sold every year between 1750 and 1850.  These materials drew on oral and literary traditions and circulated widely among a large audience in Scotland and abroad.  While the authors of many of these texts claimed that their work was rooted in Scottish history, many also stressed their origins in contemporary Scottish society and culture.

Scottish popular culture diverse, but it has also had a longstanding association with the supernatural.  Present in nearly all popular genres and traditions are references to early modern witch-hunt ghosts, fairies and other elements of folk belief and ‘superstition’. These proliferated from the sixteenth century and through the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Though extant sources are mostly in written form, in many cases, these sources represented (or claimed to represent) a ‘vanishing’ oral culture and sought to preserve and reinforce vanishing Scottish traditions.  

This year, the Centre for Scottish Studies Fall Colloquium is providing a platform for further discussion on Scottish popular culture in Scotland and Scottish communities abroad. We invite submissions for papers from a variety of disciplines on the topic of Scottish popular culture in Scotland or abroad.  Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:


Chapbooks and Broadsides

Depictions of Scotland in Contemporary Media

Fairy Tales and Belief


Ghost Stories and Belief

Historical Dress

Literary Representations of Scotland

Music, Songs and Song Collecting

Oral Culture

Popular Religion

Scottish Children’s Literature


Witchcraft and the Witch-hunts


‘Popular Culture in Scotland and Abroad’ will be held at the University of Guelph on Saturday, 13 October 2018 and will feature the annual Jill Mackenzie Lecture (Speaker TBA).  Registration fees include lunch and refreshments.


Please send proposals for papers of approximately 20-30 minutes in length to by 6 July 2018.  Applications must include an abstract of no more than 300 words that describes your paper along with a short personal biography of no more than 150 words.

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