The Bottle Imp supplement is a Spring publication dedicated to papers presented by members of the Scottish Literature Discussion Group at the Modern Language Association (MLA) convention. The session topic for 2016 was ‘The Scottish Fetish: Beyond the Kilt’.

Introduction to ‘The Scottish Fetish: Beyond the Kilt’

The papers gathered here are versions of those delivered at the Modern Language Association’s conference in Austin, Texas in January 2016. As Chair of the MLA’s Scottish Literature Forum for the 2015-16 cycle, it was my responsibility — and pleasure — to moderate the Forum’s annual guaranteed session. When my fellow Forum executives and I […]

Whisky: The Spirit of Scottish National Identity

‘Whisky, no doubt, is a devil; but why has this devil so many worshippers?’ — Lord Henry Cockburn, 6 April 18451 Beyond the kitsch culture of kilts lies Scotland’s last, enduring, and somewhat problematic fetish: Scotch whisky. This morning I would like to argue that through a turbulent history of illegal distillation, royal rehabilitation, and […]

To View Fair Melrose Aright

Walter Scott’s first full-length romance, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, pivots on a set of instructions to the cultural tourist: If thou would’st view fair Melrose aright, Go visit it by the pale moonlight; For the gay beams of lightsome day Gild, but to flout, the ruins grey. When the broken arches are black in […]

Freedom as Fetish: Fraught Love of Liberty from Arbroath to ‘Golagros’

Whether it is voiced by defiant medieval warrior-kings or by romanticized rebel patriots in contemporary film, freedom looms large in depictions of Scottishness. Scots and freedom seem to go hand in hand. Upon closer inspection, however, such stirring invocations of freedom often obscure widespread and structural unfreedom that is just as constitutive of Scottish identity. In considering […]

Cloaking and Hiding: Dressing up in Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Master of Ballantrae’

According to Jean Baudrillard’s now classic 1970s definition, a fetish is a fabrication. As a metaphor, an artifact and a social hieroglyph it is based on signs and appearances. The fetish attracts belief and worship. While some may have a phenomenal existence, the consciousness with which such phenomena are endowed is false, or deceptive. The […]


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