Nowe Szkoty

Gdańsk Scottish Studies Research Group

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(Scottish) Crime Fiction Here and There

Between the 13th and 15th of September the 3rd Crime Fiction Here and There conference took place at the University of Gdańsk. This bi-annual conference is organised by Dr Agnieszka Sienkiewicz-Charlish. This year the theme of the conference was “Time and Space”.  The previous conferences included panels devoted to Scottish crime fiction and in 2014 a special guest event with a Scottish crime writer – Paul Johnston.

Although this year there was no special panel devoted to Tartan Noir, the following papers focused on Scottish authors:

  • Jean Bearton, “Converging Routes and Channels in Lin Anderson’s Paths of Dead (2014)”
  • Wolfgang Goertschacher, “Geopolitics, the Yugoslav Wars and Val McDermid’s Poetics of Crime Fiction in The Skeleton Road
  • Emma Robertson, “Reconstructing the Regional Capital in the 1990’s Noir: To Rebuild or to Remember?” (This paper focused on, among other texts, the representation of Edinburgh in Ian Rankin’s novels)

Moreover, on the second day of the conference DAVID MALCOLM gave a reading from his novels and short stories (“Stories for Dead Actresses”).


In the picture David Malcolm reading from The German Messanger (Crime Wave Press, 2016)



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CFP: Post-Print Manuscript Cultures in Ireland, Scotland and Iceland

Post-Print Manuscript Cultures in Ireland, Scotland and Iceland
10–11 September 2015, Ulster University, Derry

The overall objectives of this conference are (i) to look at the later Irish, Scottish and Icelandic manuscript cultures of this period in a comparative way; (ii) attempt to identify commonalities and differences between scribal practices in each country, and (iii) to establish further avenues for comparative study of the post-print manuscript tradition in the ‘Atlantic Fringe’ area.

All queries to be directed to the conference organiser Dr Nioclás Mac Cathmhaoil:

Conference flyer available here:

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15th annual conference of SFEEC – the French Society for Scottish Studies

Université Toulouse – Jean Jaurès,  14 – 16 January 2016

The tandem “crime and punishment” has an eternal feel to it which seems to take us back to the origins of mankind, but, at the same time, it is deeply rooted in the society we live in. Despite the fact that since 1707 Scotland has been a “stateless nation”, the Scots have always adopted a distinctive national approach to these questions which can be seen through their use of language, literature and their collective attitudes in daily life.

For centuries Scotland’s powerful judeo-christian culture has attributed a central place to the notion of guilt and the naming and shaming of the “guilty”. Not even exalted social and political status could exonerate people from such social judgements as the Darnley murder shows us for Mary, Queen of Scots. From 1567 Mary has been seen as a martyr by some and the incarnation of evil by others … and, to this day, as Alison Weir’s recent investigation into the murder clearly underlines, a mystery which still has the power to captivate the nation’s imagination.

The crime thriller has always embodied in its own way the multiple and complex images of Scotland. The deed, the search for the guilty parties and the struggle between the forces of good and evil are all rich pretexts for the exploration of Scottish culture; while the analysis of the punishments meted out take us to the heart of this society which has constantly sought to underline is own identity.

English literary research has often taken Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone (1868) as the birth of the modern detective novel but, from a Scottish perspective, the popularity of this form of intrigue can be traced back much further. Murders and detective mysteries can be found in abundance in Sir Walter Scott’s novels, such as Rob Roy (1818) where the hunt for Morris’s money concludes with the execution of the guilty party. A few years later James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) invited the readers to explore the recesses and motivations of the criminal mind which is, at one and the same time, fully integrated into the social reality of the period and yet finds its source in the Bible story of Cain and Abel. From this perspective the works of Scott and Hogg can be said to trace a continuous thread, through the works of James McLevy in the 1860s to Robert Louis Stevenson and others later in the century, of Scottish fascination with tales of intrigue and outrage.

Scottish crime stories, obviously share certain criteria with those of other countries, such as the high doses of adrenaline, social commentaries, historical references, the analysis of the criminal mind and that of the detective but, it can be claimed, recent trends in Scotland seem to introduce a new “character”, the town or area where the action takes place. The most obvious examples of this are Glasgow and Edinburgh which seem to come alive through the stories of Taggart/Laidlaw and Rebus. But other parts of Scotland are now under investigation through the writings of, among others, Rhona MacLeod for Glasgow and Argyll, Bob Skinner for Edinburgh, Alice Rice for the Lothians, Logan MacRae for Aberdeen, Fin Macleod for the Isle of Lewis, Jimmy Perez and Willow Reeves for Shetland…. In each case, the local context with its unique cultural identity is finely interwoven into the intrigue of the detective mystery as Scotland and its fascination with crime is analysed from yet another angle. Hence the emphasis shifts from the cruelty of the acts to the backdrop against which they are committed and the Scottishness of the crime novel itself.

Crime and punishment are central to the definition of civilised society yet despite the historical tendency towards the harmonisation of definitions and legal codification, integrated methods for its prevention and detection and a scientific and humane approach to its punishment, each nation has its own distinct way of dealing with these questions. French law, for instance, focuses on punishment – le droit pénal – English law on the transgression – criminal law – and Scottish law on notions of community – common law.

The distinctiveness of the Scots’ relationship to crime and its punishment is well documented but, arguably, has never been analysed in its totality as a statement of Scottishness. The formal nature of Scottish legal proceedings illustrates this point very clearly. The law governing criminal trials in Scotland, for instance, does not allow the accused to elect a judge or jury trial; juries are composed of 15 members; judgements require corroborative evidence from at least two different and independent sources and provides the unique possibility of three different verdicts: “guilty”, “not guilty” and “not proven”.

Punishment of criminals also has a distinctly Scottish bend to it. At the present time, Scotland has one of the highest per capita prison rates in the EU despite having one of the widest ranges of community sanctions available in the world. Community involvement in this process is also one of the intriguing aspects of the nation’s history. Not all crimes punished by the courts have been condemned by the Scottish people and not all crimes condemned by the Scottish people are punished by the courts. The Scottish socialist John MacLean (1920-1999) was released from prison early repeatedly through public pressure. What this says about Scottish society, about the way the Scots see themselves before the law is less evident and needs exploring.

2013 saw the creation of a new Police Service of Scotland but how the peace and tranquillity of the nation as a whole was kept in the past is remarkably scant and we have no clear map of its relationship to the civic traditions of the country. The informal ties between crime and society are equally intriguing. Some of the great advances in Scotland’s medical faculties in earlier times also owe a debt to criminal activities of body snatchers like the infamous Burke and Hare … as do the unique architectural design of some of Edinburgh’s graveyards.

The impact of crime and the criminal on the popular imagination is even more fascinating. In fact and fiction, crime and its detection seem to have a special hold on the Scottish people. From Percy Sillitoe and Joe Jackson to Alan Jack Laidlaw, Jim Taggart (the world’s longest-running TV police drama) the seamless line between fact and fiction highlights some remarkable characters. Allan Pinkerton was a pure product of the Glasgow Gorbals. All represent the various facets of Scotland’s relationship with crime, yet, as Ian Rankin suggests about his detective John Rebus they are also an insight into “Scotland’s soul, its phobias, psychosis and mistakes, and [about] the people there”.

The organisers of the conference invite researchers into these questions, (from a linguistic, stylistic, literary, legal, historical, sociological … or multidisciplinary approach) to submit their proposals (a working title and a short summary) before 1st July 2015 to Jean BERTON ( and Bill FINDLAY ( Conference papers may be given in French or English.

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Conference “Wales and Scotland in European Travel Writing 1760–1870” – 1st Circular

Wales and Scotland in European Travel Writing 1760–1870

National Library of Wales, 16-17 April 2016

“Le Pays de Galles ressemble entièrement à la Suisse” J-J Rousseau

A one-day conference jointly organized by two AHRC-funded projects: European Travellers to Wales 1750–2010 & Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour 1760-1820

A one-day conference looking at perceptions of Wales and Scotland in a century’s worth of travel- writing from Continental Europe. What attracted travellers from France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries to venture beyond the attractive bustle of London to the Celtic peripheries? How aware are writers of the cultural differences within the United Kingdom? What sources and literary influences inspire them, and shape their experience?

We are particularly interested in exploring European translations of (or borrowings from) the trail-blazing works of Thomas Pennant (author of numerous Tours in Scotland and Wales 1769–1778) and William Gilpin (Observations on the River Wye 1782), and others. How are these key works mediated in different European languages, and do they colour Continental experiences of Wales and Scotland, as they undoubtedly did for British travellers? Pennant himself travelled on the Continent in 1765, and formed important links with some of the foremost members of the scientific community: to what extent did these networks help to spread knowledge of his work across Europe?

Potential topics could also include:

  • Translating travel texts
  • Literary tourism: Gray, Ossian, Herder, Scott
  • Continental Celtic connections and prehistoric landscapes (particularly post-Renan and Arnold)
  • The aesthetics of landscape/picturesque – parallels with Alps
  • Scientific tours, natural history or geology – European networks and influences.

We welcome any expressions of interest at this stage. Please contact Heather Williams or Mary-Ann Constantine

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CFP: Scottish Sport and the Arts

Call for Papers: Scottish Sport and the Arts

Presented by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the British Society of Sports History, Scottish Network

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh Friday, 28 August 2015

To mark the ongoing exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery: Playing for Scotland: The Making of Modern Sport, we are teaming up to present a one-day conference on Scottish sport’s historic and contemporary relationship with the arts, broadly defined. Suggested papers topics might include (but are not limited to):

• The painting of Scottish sport and sportspeople
• Scottish sport and cinema
• Scottish sport and literature
• Scottish sport and photography
• Scottish sport and statuary
• Scottish sport, cartoons, and comics
• Scottish sport, plays, and performance art

Abstracts should be no longer than 200 words, and should be sent by Friday, 29 May to both Imogen Gibbon ( and Matthew McDowell ( Any queries should also be sent to Imogen or Matthew.

Please forward this to any of your colleagues and postgraduate students who may find this of interest.

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3rd International St Magnus Conference: Visualising the North

The 3rd International St Magnus Conference will be held in the Orkney Islands 14-16 April 2016.

For more information and the call for papers see the conference website.

St Magnus Conference Poster

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Forgotten Histories, New Perspectives and J.M. Barrie

Forgotten Histories, New Perspectives and J.M. Barrie

Friday 26th June – Saturday 27th June 2015

The Solway Centre is hosting two days of discussion and performance in Dumfries, with the University of Edinburgh and Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust.


Explore the forgotten history of Scottish children’s literature, from the eighteenth century onwards. Two days of discussion and performance in Dumfries, hosted by The Solway Centre for Environment & Culture, the University of Edinburgh and the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust.

Friday 26th June, The Minerva Hall, Dumfries Academy: A special evening organised by the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, currently developing Scotland’s Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling, based in the Dumfries house and garden which inspired J.M. Barrie’s iconic ‘Peter Pan’. The Scottish Youth Theatre will give the first reading of Barrie’s first play Bandelero the Bandit since he premiered the work whilst a pupil at the school. Prior to this, the registration event at Rutherford McCowan, Crichton Campus, will feature Tom Pow, who has collaborated with illustrator Ian Andrew, to produce a new book for children, Sixteen String Jack & the Garden of Adventure.

Saturday 27th June, 10 am – 6 pm Rutherford-McCowan Building, University of Glasgow & Dumfries & Moat Brae A symposium, topics include the birth of Scottish children’s literature; ‘Scottishness’ and the idea of the child in children’s literature; didactic and instructional literature including children’s chapbooks; authors’ perspectives on writing children’s literature. Speakers include Maureen Farrell, Fiona MacCulloch, Rhona Brown, Linden Bicket, Valentina Bold & Sarah Dunnigan. In the late afternoon we move to Moat Brae, Birthplace of Peter Pan, for a tour around the house and gardens and refreshments. The evening will close with a round table discussion featuring writer Liz Niven.

Further details are available at with the full program to follow in March.