Negotiating a Nation: Imperialism, Multiculturalism, and the Evolution of Identity in Medieval Scottish Borderland Literature
Many medieval authors worked with the ideas of identity, at times giving way to the creation of nationalism. Depictions of national identity and nationalism varied depending upon author and time period, especially within literature from the Lowland region. This literary borderland identity was ever-evolving as the political environment over the course of the 14th and 15th centuries fluctuated and varied depending upon who was in power, the author’s political ties, and the geographic and cultural places and spaces in which authors resided. To effectively understand how and why this was the case, we must ask the following questions: how are nationalism and national identity depicted and advocated through 14th and 15th century Scottish literature? Who creates national identity? How are different cultures manifested in literature through cultural characteristics such as politics, language, ethnicity, history, culture, socioeconomics, and place to create a national identity? As will be argued, Scottish borderland authors forged national identity within their texts by amalgamating and responding to imperial and political influences from Gaelic, French, and English cultures, which evolved throughout the course of the later Middle Ages and culminated into a multicultural national identity.
Using a post-colonial methodology, this dissertation identifies three stages or types of medieval Scottish identity formation. First, I examine English cultural imperialism in James I’s The Kingis Quair and Andrew of Wyntoun’s The Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland. The two texts were written near the end of James’s eighteen-year captivity in England and formed national identity through an English lens. Second, John Barbour’s The Brus and Blind Hary’s The Wallace created identity in direct resistance to English culture and politics by writing nationalistic texts, adopting French and Gaelic literary cultures, and politicizing post-Chaucerian stylistics. Third, I discuss how Robert Henryson in Morall Fabillis and William Dunbar in Lament for the Makaris amalgamate French, English, and Gaelic cultures to create a commentary on the diverse social groups contributing to identity formation in 15th century.
I conclude various cultural identities and literary traditions created a commentary on the importance of cultural, political, and ideological amalgamation as well as the evolution of medieval Scottish borderland identity.