Cities occupy an uncertain and sometimes unloved space in much of the Scottish literary canon. For most of what we think of as Scottish history only one place in Scotland – Edinburgh – had anything approaching the attributes of a city. With the Industrial Revolution, other urban centres, most obviously Glasgow, experienced rapid expansion. But many of Scotland’s great writers, from the age of Enlightenment to the 20th century, came from rural or island communities: they found cities alien and incomprehensible, even when their political sympathies lay with the mass of the populations that inhabited them. This lecture explores what this has meant for the representation of cities in Scottish literature, and ponders how the relationship between writers and cities might develop in a post-industrial age.
James Robertson is a novelist, short story writer, poet, translator, editor and publisher. Born in 1958, he studied history at Edinburgh University and worked in the book trade before becoming a full-time writer. His many publications include two collections of stories, four novels, poetry, essays, a collection of Scottish Ghost Stories and a Dictionary of Scottish Quotations.In 1993–5 he was Writer in Residence at Brownsbank Cottage, former home of Hugh MacDiarmid. In 2010 he was appointed as Writer in Residence on Edinburgh Napier University’s new Creative Writing MA.He established Kettillonia, a small pamphlet press, in 1999 and is a co-founder and the general editor of the Scots language children’s book imprint Itchy Coo.