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Le crime, le châtiment et les écossais

 | 
Jean Berton
, 
Bill Findlay

VI – From Guilt to Sentence / De la culpabilisation à la condamnation

Displacement as an Exit Strategy: Crime and Punishment in Mackay Brown’s Greenvoe

Mario Ebest

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  • 1 Scott was one of the initiators of the Highlandism movement, making the Highlands popular all over (...)
  • 2 For more details on the Kailyard movement: see Ebest, 175-77.

1In the field of Scottish literary studies, the term Scottish Renaissance is often used to describe the period of Scottish modernism, which was observable in the first half of the 20th century. According to Carla Sassi, the word Renaissance refers in this context to “a project of [Scottish] renewal, located in a vague time to be, whose success is still deemed uncertain” (Sassi, 112). This nationalist literary movement can be interpreted as a counter-reaction to earlier world views presented, for example, by Sir Walter Scott,1 a Romantic Unionist, and escapist Kailyard authors of the 19th as well as early 20th centuries, who focussed very much on celebrating Scottish country life.2

  • 3 “Very much a product of the Scottish Renaissance, George Mackay Brown also looked to the dead for i (...)
  • 4 “The houses of the village went down, one after the other, as they were bought up by the authoritie (...)
  • 5 In support of the opinion that Mackay Brown was influenced by the Scottish Renaissance, one might a (...)
  • 6 It includes motifs such as industrial upheaval followed by devastation: “The huge radii of tunnels (...)
  • 7 1) “Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected b (...)

2 Although Orcadian author George Mackay Brown (1921-1996) cannot be called a Scottish Renaissance writer, he nevertheless was very much influenced by this literary and cultural movement. Michael Stachura even considers him to be a product of the Renaissance, who constantly reminded his Scottish readers of their rich cultural heritage.3 Concerning Mackay Brown’s novel Greenvoe (1972), one can think of the Master Horsemen passages in this context: each of these scenes forms part of an ancient fertility rite which contrasts with the novel’s postmodernist motif of a world being on the brink of chaos brought about by Black Star, a mysterious industrial-military project unpeopling the island area in which the plot is set (Brown, 217-18; 244-49).4 Regardless of whether Stachura’s label ‘Renaissance product’ is perhaps a little exaggerated in connection with the author, it is a fact that in the early 1950s, Mackay Brown’s literary tutor was Edwin Muir, a leading representative of the Renaissance.5 In addition, Greenvoe’s Black Star narrative certainly ties in with the Scottish Renaissance’s above-mentioned anti-Romantic and anti-Kailyard stances.6 A further key characteristic of the Scottish Renaissance was that this movement’s authors adopted a very critical attitude towards Calvinism (Backus & Benedict, 291). Calvinism, as Matt Slick postulates, “is a movement within orthodox Protestantism” founded by John Calvin (1509- 1564). According to Slick, there are five main principles Calvinist believers should observe: first, Total Depravity; second, Unconditional Election, meaning predestination; third, Limited Atonement; fourth, Irresistible Grace; and fifth, Perseverance of the Saints. These five principles make up the acronym TULIP (Slick, 2017).7

  • 8 Respectively Sunset Song (1932), Butcher’s Broom (1934), And the Cock Crew (1945), Albyn, or Scotla (...)
  • 9 Hagemann does not provide an explicit definition of Sündenbesessenheit in her book section dealing (...)

3Especially Renaissance writers such as Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Neil Miller Gunn, Fionn Mac Colla, Hugh MacDiarmid, or Naomi Mitchison portrayed Calvinism in a critical manner in their works.8 In her study Die Schottische Renaissance, Susanne Hagemann illustrates these authors’ religious criticism in connection with Calvinism very convincingly (Hagemann, 257- 76). Backus and Benedict even postulate that the Renaissance “regarded Calvinism as a blight on the land [of Scotland]” (Backus & Benedict, 291). As Hagemann states, the Calvinist image frequently constructed by Renaissance authors is among others characterised by the literary motif of “Sündenbesessenheit” (Hagemann, 264 and 264-70). This German word encapsulates the idea of a person being characterised by their extremely exaggerated feeling or opinion that they have been sinful in breaking God’s Biblical law to a great extent.9 Naomi Mitchison stresses that the modern Calvinist church concentrates very much on “personal sins, such as fornication – one of the oldest Scottish customs – drunkenness and the playing of football on Sunday” (Hagemann, 270). Since the act of breaking the law can be referred to as crime, one could also employ the term criminal instead of sinful in this context, generating expectations that (God’s) punishment should or could be imposed sooner or later. Viewed from this Renaissance perspective, Calvinism seems to be operating very much within the spheres of crime and punishment.

  • 10 The Church of Scotland is a Presbyterian church: it is governed by councils and assemblies/ courts: (...)

4Certainly as a result of Mackay Brown being influenced by the Renaissance, this theme of Sündenbesessenheit is also identifiable in Greenvoe, a novel in which the character of old Mrs McKee, a Calvinist believer, is constantly tormented by memory-related hallucinations and feelings of guilt reinforced through these fantasies: in her imagination, she has to stand trial in a Scottish ecclesiastical court, chaired by a tribunal of the elect, investigating her allegedly sinful behaviour (or crime of converting her niece to Roman Catholicism) and preparing her final punishment. The following lines, uttered by this Presbyterian court’s imaginary prosecutor,10 illustrate Mrs McKee’s Sündenbesessenheit very well: “It was this same woman whose hand plucked an innocent girl out of a Highland rainstorm into – Lord have mercy on this poor Scotland of ours – the abode of The Scarlet Woman” (Brown, 132). The prosecutor’s metaphorical expression “abode of The Scarlet Woman” refers to a Roman Catholic church and ignores the circumstance that the church building was sheltering Mrs McKee’s niece from heavy rain in this situation. From the point of view of Calvinism, Mrs McKee – who actually pulled her niece “into an open doorway out of the torn sheets of water” (Brown, 126) – forced her niece into the realm of the evil Antichrist (i.e. Roman Catholicism), as can be concluded from the prosecutor’s statement. It is obvious that in the prosecutor’s opinion, Mrs McKee’s disloyalty concerning her own Calvinist belief, which allegedly manifests itself in her behaviour towards her niece, is to be evaluated as a cardinal sin or crime.

5In this paper, the Renaissance motif of Sündenbesessenheit will be further illustrated first. Then, Mrs McKee will be looked into more closely by focussing on the precise nature of her feelings of guilt and on their implications for her daily life. Finally, the narrator’s strategy of liberating Mrs McKee’s from her self-accusing feelings of Calvinist Sündenbesessenheit will be demonstrated and explained. In this last section, Greenvoe will additionally be contextualised with the literary narrative of the Highland Clearances constructed by Renaissance authors Gunn and Mac Colla.

The Clearances and the Renaissance Motif of Sündenbesessenheit

  • 11 As typical postmodernist features, Martin Irvine lists: “Skepticism of progress” and “anti-technolo (...)

6When, at the end of Greenvoe, the industrial-military project Black Star fails, leaving behind an unpeopled island, a postmodernist echo of the Scottish trauma theme of the Highland Clearances is produced. The historical Clearances, which were carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries, led to thousands of crofters being evicted from their rented lands in the Highlands and Islands. A significant reason for these dramatic changes was that their land use was no longer profitable enough for the landlords, who were more interested in converting their properties into sheep farming lands. Considering the important role that the engineering project Black Star plays in the process of driving people from an island, one can read Greenvoe – and especially the final failure and abandonment of the technological project – as a postmodernist evocation of the Scottish theme of the Clearances. In the course of the plot, the inhabitants of the 20th-century fictitious Orcadian community of Greenvoe are either persuaded or forced to leave their island for good, so that there will be enough space for Black Star to be implemented. The fact that Black Star is abandoned at the end can be decoded as a postmodernist narrator’s rejection of progress, a postmodernist theme:11

[...] [The island of] Hellya was to be sealed forever from the rest of the world.
The last labourer shouldered his pick and departed. The only people left were the dead in the kirkyard. The disturbed dust settled on a seedless island. Deep in the heart of Hellya the Black Star froze.
Brown, 245

  • 12 “Every observer of a collapsing star will observe that the star will stop collapsing before crossin (...)

7Moreover, the metaphor of a freezing Black Star could suggest that the project’s abandonment is perhaps only temporary, i.e. another postmodernist element is played with in this passage: subversive unreliability. Alternatively, if the narrator’s decision to call the project Black Star is perhaps an allusion to the black stars as discussed in the field of astronomy,12 a freezing Black Star might mean that from a distant observer’s perspective, the process of the project’s collapsing will not be finished within a finite period of time, i.e. the reader or observer will never experience the point in time by which the project has really stopped being active – although they clearly notice the collapse being in progress. In other words, the Black Star collapse cannot be fully grasped by the reader/observer. Therefore, it cannot be fully explained either, which is also a postmodernist feature since postmodernism rejects theories that explain everything.

  • 13 See Crichton Smith’s use of linguistic Gaelicisations as Scottish-Celtic identity markers in Consid (...)

8Some authors of the Scottish Renaissance, such as Gunn and Mac Colla (or, as a writer who was very much influenced thematically by this movement but who was not really part of it: Iain Crichton Smith13), incorporate the motif of the Clearances into their works. However, they integrate this theme more directly into their texts, their narrators referring explicitly to the Clearances. In the plots of these novels, the apparently Calvinist idea of the Clearances being understandable as God’s punishment directed at sinful, thus criminal, crofters is given narrative room in passages portraying the position of church representatives. For example, Gunn’s narrator states:

And the ministers of the gospel all over were preaching obedience to the law of the land, and many of the finer natures amongst the congregations, bred in the fear of God, were sensitive of the cardinal stricture: God was visiting His wrath upon the people for their sins. The ways of God are not only inscrutable: they are always just.
Gunn, 166

9Similarly, Mac Colla’s minister Maighstir Sachairi thinks: “Truly […], it may well be God’s will to punish this people, for while they honoured Him with their lips their hearts may have been far from Him” (Mac Colla, 37). Crichton Smith’s minister also claims that the evictions soon to be carried out by the authorities are to be seen as God’s punishing reaction to the parishioners’ sinfulness or criminal lawlessness. He is of the opinion that the villagers are much more interested in sexuality, non-spiritual pleasures, and law-breaking than in going to church on a regular basis or being law-abiding, as becomes clear in his conversation with old Mrs Scott:

‘I mean that the people of this village, aye, the people of all the villages here, have deserved this. Have you ever thought that this came as a punishment for their sins?’ [...]
‘I have served here for many years as the servant of God’s servants, ’ the minister said [...] ‘And I can tell you of practices that a daughter of God would not believe [...] I speak of their carnality, Mrs Scott, and their music which is not the music of David. I speak of some who do not attend church at all. I speak of a growing lawlessness amongst my flock. I speak of a general lawlessness in the whole land. How many of them come to the tables of the Lord? How many of them are not thinking of the flesh and their worldly pleasures? How many of them are learning disobedience to their lawful master the Duke? Why, I have heard of some who refuse to serve in his army’.
Crichton Smith, 74-75

10Statements and lines of argumentation like these, which are all ascribed to Calvinist church officials in the novels, illustrate Hagemann’s point that Renaissance authors often portray Calvinism as being linked with the phenomenon of Sündenbesessenheit. In the passages just quoted, the crofters’ alleged extreme sinfulness serves as an instrument with the help of which the villagers are meant to be made or kept obedient via their necessary punishment. Otherwise put, the authors present sin-focussed church representatives as stabilisers of law-abiding behaviour and as uncompromising supporters of the landlord-crofters power relationships prevalent in the Highland and Islands of the 18th and 19th centuries – Gunn refers to “obedience to the law of the land” and Crichton Smith to “disobedience to their lawful master”.

Mackay Brown’s Mrs McKee

  • 14 “The most famous institution associated with Calvin, the Genevan consistory [i.e. an ecclesiastical (...)
  • 15 The following passage is an illustration of the process of internal negotiation inside Mrs McKee: “ (...)

11Since the Renaissance was very inspirational for Mackay Brown, the fact that the theme of Sündenbesessenheit plays a major part in his postmodernist novel Greenvoe as well appears logical. In Greenvoe, Mrs McKee frequently hallucinatorily perceives herself in a Calvinist court – an institution closely related to Calvin’s consistory14 – being accused there of several grave crimes related to her past, which cannot be tolerated by God and Mrs McKee’s parish. Put more elaborately, the old woman’s memories of her past are again and again re-activated, partly via a film show depicting scenes of her life (Brown, 38-43), and re-negotiated from a Calvinist angle through this imaginary court case on the inside of Mrs McKee.15 Johnny the peddler even discerns Mrs McKee as resembling “a few shadows sewn together” and as being haunted by “ghosts feast [ing] on her flesh” and “drink [ing] her blood […] like black bats” when he visits her in her home, which, as he states, requires “exorcism” to “rid this old woman of her ghosts” (Brown, 79-80; 81).

  • 16 Alcohol dependency and/or states of intoxication caused by this substance can certainly be seen as (...)

12Not only is she suspected by the court of the crime of turning her niece into a Roman Catholic, but also she is prosecuted for allegedly driving her son, the local Calvinist minister, into alcohol dependency.16 This statement, which is made in Mrs McKee’s imaginary court by her prosecutor with regard to the second accusation, demonstrates the old woman’s mental pain very convincingly:

‘I will put one last image before you, then I will trouble you no more. It is this: a pale ailing lad, fretted with earache and the dazzle of the spring light, lying listless on a Marchmont couch. A woman holds out a glass of red wine to him. The traffic ebbs and flows outside, and the shouts of children come from the back gardens. The boy drinks.’
Brown, 186

  • 17 The elect were members of a Calvinist court who have been chosen by God to be saved and who are thu (...)
  • 18 The sense of shame becomes perceptible through her internal prosecutor’s words, which refer to her (...)

13Through lines like these, the reader is certainly able to understand the internal mechanisms of self-accusation operating within the old woman: Since she stands trial before a tribunal of the elect,17 it can be assumed that her Calvinist belief as well as her role as mother of a Calvinist minister (who is meant to serve as a moral example for his parish) force her to observe the principle of Total Depravity to an extreme extent. This principle makes her again and again look for and identify sinfulness in her own past responses to life’s challenges – sinfulness that, in her understanding, she must be punished for by God’s tribunal of the elect. In consequence of these ongoing mechanisms, she suffers from feelings of guilt and shame.18 These feelings are continuously re-aroused by Mrs McKee’s Calvinist in-court conditioning, making it impossible for the old woman to cope with her guilty conscience in a healthy, therapeutic way:

[...] they came, her accusers, four times a year; they gathered in the manse of Hellya to inquire into certain hidden events of her life. The assize lasted for many days and generally covered the same ground, though occasionally new material would be led that she had entirely forgotten about.
Brown, 15

14Due to the temporal regularity of her prosecutor’s accusations (i.e. her self-accusations), Mrs McKee cannot manage to leave his (i.e. her own) charges behind. She even goes so far as to claim that “she enjoyed the vivid resurrection of the past, however painful” (Brown, 15). In other words, she seems to indulge in a very masochistic manner in her own feelings of criminal sinfulness – an emotional response which is perhaps an indicator of the large degree of Sündenbesessenheit that she is characterised by.

15Finally, Mrs McKee even takes the responsibility for her home island’s depopulation and destruction when she says: “Soon there will be nothing in Hellya but skeletons and shadows. [...] I have brought ruin to everything I have touched and known [...] Now I am bringing ruin to this whole island. This is happening because I live here” (Brown, 223. His italics). At first sight, this behaviour seems rather ironical within the context of the novel’s plot, for the local representatives of the industrial project Black Star and the management controlling Black Star from the main land should of course be regarded as the real perpetrators of devastation and radical change on the island of Hellya, as can be gathered from these lines:

Men with drawing-boards and theodolites and briefcases crossed over to the island; security officers with Alsatian dogs; clerks, cooks, cable-men, crane-drivers, pier-builders, more and still more labourers. [...]
The island began to be full of noises – a roar and a clangour from morning to night. [...]
A phrase – ‘black star’ – was uttered by one of the engineers over pints in [...] [a local pub on the island] one Friday night.
Brown, 215

16However, when again taking into consideration that Mackay Brown’s Mrs McKee has apparently been geared very much towards Calvinist doctrines such as Total Depravity in her life, her act of taking the responsibility for destructive measures which are actually beyond her control becomes more comprehensible.

  • 19 “In 1800 it was obvious that a change was coming to the Highlands. […] Then as now, there was capit (...)

17Further, the old woman’s self-accusing Calvinist behaviour prevents her from identifying and criticising Black Star as yet another kind of foreign/ hegemonic exploitive interference in her Scottish island’s economic (and thus also cultural) affairs – a significant Scottish motif which e.g. John McGrath’s play The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil elaborates on intensively.19 Therefore, Mackay Brown’s narrator presents Mrs McKee’s as a character whose excessive adherence to Calvinism can be argued to function as a stabiliser of existing power relationships between an island and a foreign hegemonic authority because her strict religious orientation precludes her from questioning traditionally imbalanced economic connections. This portrayal of Calvinism as a machinery for maintaining power relationships can also be discovered in literary works written by authors of/inspired by the Scottish Renaissance, as has been expounded above.

Conflict solution: displacement and liberation

18Mrs McKee’s internal liberation only becomes possible once she returns to Edinburgh, the place she originally comes from, where she recovers in hospital from a period of mental and physical exhaustion. The reader now learns that

[s] he knew at once where she was, from the sounds on the stone outside – she was in her own city, Edinburgh. It was a beautiful day in spring; she knew it was spring from the slant of the light on her face. Among Edinburgh silences, birds sang in the trees. All her senses were quickened. It was morning. She could almost feel the dew-flight from the grass-blades on Arthur’s Seat.
Brown, 226

19Several phrases in this description suggest a new beginning after a rather bleak time – the motif of spring. An attentive recipient might have a desire to read this spring imagery as a literary device signalising that new life is now flowing into Mrs McKee. In addition, the mention of “the dew-flight from the grass-blades on Arthur’s Seat” being almost felt by Mrs McKee is an allusion to an earlier time when the old woman was still a very active as well as sociable – and thus happy – person: “Every year [at that earlier time], it seems, she had washed her face in the May dew on the side of Arthur’s Seat with Millicent and Pussy Brae and, sometimes, Flora” (Brown, 82). One can certainly understand this reference to a cheerful time of Mrs McKee’s earlier life as an evocation of her past, which now provides hope for her new present life.

20An evocation of Mrs McKee’s past can also be observed in these lines, which describe further developments on the inside of Mrs McKee after she has arrived in Edinburgh:

Time built itself up again, not as an ancient storied house, but as a drift of butterflies. A delicate light lay upon her branching quickened veins; she was young again; she was Liz Alder on the day before she met Alan McKee. She remembered that this happened to her April after April, this feeling of reprieve that was so rare and evanescent that it came and vanished like a silent tumble of butterflies.
Brown, 227

  • 20 Berthold Schoene speaks in this context of her “resurrection” (181), which implies that Mrs McKee, (...)
  • 21 See these statistical data: In 2011 (i.e. approx. 40-50 years after the period of time in which Gre (...)

21The imagery of time being “built [...] up again, not as an ancient storied house, but as a drift of butterflies” can be interpreted as follows: Mrs McKee liberates herself from her usual way of looking at her life, as consisting of several stories (narrating the – allegedly sinful – events in these periods) to be told and investigated repeatedly and in an agonising way. Instead, she now sees herself as a young woman marked by liveliness (time/life as “a drift of butterflies” and her “branching quickened veins”20) at a time when she was not yet suffering from Calvinist indoctrinations/self-accusations making her question her life and her decisions from a moral and religious point of view again and again. In other words, she pardons herself ( “this feeling of reprieve”). Her imaginary Calvinist prosecutor’s charge that she was once unfaithful to her husband-to-be, Alan McKee (see Brown, 42-43; 82), is no longer relevant for her in this situation as she senses herself to be in a period of time before she met Alan for the first time – in a period of time when she did not have to face any of her later self-accusations. Since the old woman is now back in Edinburgh, a city which is not as much influenced by Calvinism as is her former home on the Orkney island of Hellya,21 one could speculate that this time “this feeling of reprieve”, which she repeatedly experienced earlier in her life, could have a more lasting impact on her – a consequence that would be in contrast to the non-permanent quality this feeling had in her perception in her past.

22The idea of “time [...] [building] itself up again, not as an ancient storied house, but as a drift of butterflies” could perhaps also be read as an indirect allusion to the astronomical interpretation of the collapse of project Black Star: similarly to the notion of time being distorted by the freezing Black Star in the Greenvoe narrative (Brown, 245), now there is also a distortion in Mrs McKee’s perception of time: she does not see time as something happening in periods ( “stories”) which follow each other but rather “as a drift of butterflies” – i.e. time works in circles, irregularly, spontaneously, slowly and quickly, back and forth, up and down, etc.

23As has been demonstrated in relation with the Greenvoe passage provided above ( “Time built itself up again, not as an ancient storied house, but as a drift of butterflies […]”), Mackay Brown’s narrator offers an optimistic solution concerning Mrs McKee’s difficult internal situation, which is only made possible by the old woman’s displacement, i.e. her removal from her home due do the destructive Black Star project. This use of the theme of displacement is very different from the way in which Renaissance authors such as Gunn and Mac Colla handle the issue of the 19th-century Highland Clearances, which is a conflict of displacement as well. In their novels dealing with the Clearances, both Gunn and Mac Colla depict their Highland characters, victims of displacement, as being culturally uprooted, unsheltered, and traumatised at the end: Mac Colla’s Fearchar the Poet describes the Highlanders’ situation as follows:

They are on the shore at Camus Bàn […] They are without shelter of any kind as yet – and for food they eat shellfish. […] Bean na h-Airde Móire is dead. Even as they carried her out: her very clothes in flames. Some old man is wandering among the rocks at Carnan. I don’t know who: he ran from me – barking like a dog. […] Mairi-of-Eoghann-Gasda fell from the roof of the house and lay in labour before all that stood by: and the child was born before its time and had no life in it.
Mac Colla, 177; 178

  • 22 Both Gunn and Mac Colla use Donald MacLeod’s Gloomy Memories of the Highland as a source text, a fa (...)

24Gunn’s characters are confronted with similar calamities.22 Gunn’s Seonaid, defending her family and herself from intruders wanting to evict all of them from their home, falls from the roof of her home. In consequence, her children start to scream “in a maddening fashion” (Gunn, 323). She then gives prematurely birth to her child, who does not survive (Gunn, 320-24; 330). With regard to an old woman who is violently removed from her house, Gunn’s Kirsteen says: “‘Morach has gone mad’” (Gunn, 331; 318- 19). Furthermore, Gunn’s narrator states:

Gilleasbuig had been one of two greybeards who had never turned up after the eviction. His body had been found by a shepherd within the ruined walls of the mill, where apparently he had crawled round and round, licking the meal dust out of corners and off low ledges, before death stiffened him.
Gunn, 349

25Mackay Brown’s Greenvoe can be understood as a 20th-century narrative echo of the historical Scottish theme of the Clearances, as explained earlier in this paper. Displacement and escape from massive technological changes enable Mackay Brown’s Mrs McKee to leave her strict orientation towards Calvinist Sündenbesessenheit behind when she returns to her place of origin – the place she still identifies with very much: Edinburgh – “her own city” (Brown, 226). Mackay Brown’s narrator thus constructs a postmodernist 20th-century Clearances narrative which rejects technological progress (the final failure of Black Star) and which is also different from the very pessimistic Clearances narrative composed by Scottish Renaissance authors Gunn and Mac Colla in their above-mentioned works. This second feature of Greenvoe’s re-constructed Clearances narrative should be especially emphasised here: Since Mackay Brown was most likely influenced by the Renaissance movement, one could have assumed that his novel Greenvoe, dealing with a theme which is also very much relevant for Renaissance authors, was more in line with Gunn’s and Mac Colla’s Clearances narratives.

26Greenvoe’s narrator allows Mrs McKee to recover from her extreme Calvinist conditioning. Therefore, she does not have to be in court and to feel guilty any longer. In other words, Mrs McKee’s displacement and her liberation from massive self-accusations, made possible through this displacement, provide a release for the old woman, who is suffering from internal hardships caused by the principle of Total Depravity. This acquittal will – at least one is led to speculate in this direction – permanently empower her to see life as “a [lively] drift of butterflies” and not so much as a predetermined narrative constructed of elements such as misbehavioural crime/sin and necessary punishment.

Bibliographie

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ANONYMOUS, National Records of Scotland. “Summary: Religious Group Demographics”/ “2011Census Output.” In: Scottish Government Riaghaltas na h-Alba gov.scot. National Records of Scotland, 2016. Web. 26 February 2017. http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/odsvisualiser/#view=religionChart&selected Wafers=0

BACKUS, Irena & BENEDICT, Philip, Calvin and His Influence, 1509-2009, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011.

CRICHTON SMITH, Iain. Consider the Lilies, Edinburgh, Canongate, (1968) 1995.

EBEST, Mario, Die traumatische Vertreibung der subalternen Hochländer im Rahmen der Highland Clearances, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2016.

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GUNN, Neil Miller, Butcher’s Broom, Edinburgh: Polygon, 2006.

HAGEMANN, Susanne, Die Schottische Renaissance: Literatur und Nation im 20. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt / M., Peter Lang, 1992.

IRVINE, Martin. “Modernism vs Postmodernism.” In: Villanova University. Villanova University, no year. Web. 12 February 2017. http://www19.homepage.villanova.edu/karyn.hollis/prof_academic/Courses/2043_pop/modernism_vs_postmodernism.htm

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Notes

1 Scott was one of the initiators of the Highlandism movement, making the Highlands popular all over Britain as a natural, beautiful place, where noble Highland heroes lived (see Ebest, 203-04).

2 For more details on the Kailyard movement: see Ebest, 175-77.

3 “Very much a product of the Scottish Renaissance, George Mackay Brown also looked to the dead for inspiration, drawing on ancient texts such as Njáls saga, Grettis saga, Orkneyinga saga, translations of skaldic poetry (structurally complex court poetry from the Viking Age), and Scotland’s rich ballad and song culture in order to re-inspire what he saw as an Orkney community beginning to suffer from an inhibiting case of cultural and historical amnesia” (Stachura, 1).

4 “The houses of the village went down, one after the other, as they were bought up by the authorities. They collapsed before clashing jaws and blank battering foreheads [operated by Black Star workers.]” contrasts with “The Lord of the Harvest [i.e. a Master Horseman] raised his hands. ‘We have brought light and blessing to the kingdom of winter, ’ he said, ‘however long it endures, that kingdom, a night or a season or a thousand ages. The word has been found. Now we will eat and drink together and be glad.’” (Brown, 217; 249)

5 In support of the opinion that Mackay Brown was influenced by the Scottish Renaissance, one might also consider Ron Ferguson’s statement here, which is taken from his biographical study of Mackay Brown: In the 1950s, Mackay Brown “grew to like Hugh MacDiarmid […], the leading figure in the Scottish Renaissance movement” (Ferguson, 84).

6 It includes motifs such as industrial upheaval followed by devastation: “The huge radii of tunnels into Korsfea and the Knap and Ernefea petered out, a black blasted star” (Brown, 245).

7 1) “Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful.”; 2) “God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect [i.e. those ones who receive eternal salvation] according to the kind intention of His will […] [and] without any consideration of merit or quality within the individual.”; 3) “Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect.”; 4) “God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call, and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God.”; 5) “You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ.” (Slick 2017).

8 Respectively Sunset Song (1932), Butcher’s Broom (1934), And the Cock Crew (1945), Albyn, or Scotland and the Future (1927), and The Bull Calves (1947).

9 Hagemann does not provide an explicit definition of Sündenbesessenheit in her book section dealing with the Scottish-Renaissance topic of religion (Hagemann, 257-76). For this reason, the author of this article suggests this definition of “Sündenbesessenheit”, which then can translate as “an excessive sense of guilt”.

10 The Church of Scotland is a Presbyterian church: it is governed by councils and assemblies/ courts: first, local councils with ministers and elders; second, regional and national assemblies of ministers, elders, and experts. As Mrs McKee thinks, she is summoned by the “ecclesiastical division” (Brown, 113) of a Presbyterian court.

11 As typical postmodernist features, Martin Irvine lists: “Skepticism of progress” and “anti-technology reactions” (Irvine 2017).

12 “Every observer of a collapsing star will observe that the star will stop collapsing before crossing a critical radius (Schwarzschild radius) and becoming a black hole. However, an observer’s perception of the passage of time can vary significantly depending of the strength of the gravity field from which observations are made. From the perspective of a distant observer, the rate of collapse will slow down so much as the surface approaches the critical radius that the critical radius will never be crossed in finite time.
This was the inception of black stars’ concept. So, stars that are collapsing toward forming a black hole but are frozen near the Schwarzschild horizon are termed “black stars”. A Black Star is a theoretical object alternative to the black hole, composed of matter. In contrast, as we explained, a “black hole” is a vacuum solution of Einstein’s equations and there is no matter distribution inside it except for the singularity at the origin” ( “Black Stars: What Are They?” 2017).

13 See Crichton Smith’s use of linguistic Gaelicisations as Scottish-Celtic identity markers in Consider the Lilies. Gaelicisations are also employed in this way by Renaissance authors Gunn and Mac Colla in Butcher’s Broom and And the Cock Crew, as has been illustrated in another publication (Ebest, 188-95). Furthermore, Consider the Lilies is very critical of Calvinism, which is likewise typical of the Scottish Renaissance (Ebest, 175-76; 195-98).

14 “The most famous institution associated with Calvin, the Genevan consistory [i.e. an ecclesiastical court], was undoubtedly central to his purpose of reforming Geneva’s inhabitants into correctly educated Christians who behaved as such. […] [In the 16th century] […], although most people were summoned for faulty doctrine or failure to attend sermons, others were accused of [behavioural problems such as] quarrelling in public, fornication, blasphemy, gambling, singing parodies of hymns, using superstitious cures, or even being disobedient to their parents” (William Monter 2016).

15 The following passage is an illustration of the process of internal negotiation inside Mrs McKee: “Was this the judgement upon her – ‘for that thy days have been wicked and perverse and desperately deceitful’ – forever to sit in a fallen house, an old bereaved exiled loveless woman” (Brown, 227). Having been forced to leave her home on the island of Hellya and imagining her house there as destroyed by now, Mrs McKee has to listen to a voice from her inside (that one of the “prosecutors” she often meets in her imaginary court sessions), condemning her for her alleged sins while she asks herself if the connection she assumes to be established between her past sins and her necessary condemnation/ punishment could be a reality.

16 Alcohol dependency and/or states of intoxication caused by this substance can certainly be seen as further criminal behaviours people were already summoned for by Calvin’s 16th-century consistory.

17 The elect were members of a Calvinist court who have been chosen by God to be saved and who are thus authorised to punish sinful behaviour.

18 The sense of shame becomes perceptible through her internal prosecutor’s words, which refer to her alleged sins: “All this shameful and dolorous business will be sieved to the last grain” (Brown, 162).

19 “In 1800 it was obvious that a change was coming to the Highlands. […] Then as now, there was capital elsewhere looking for something to develop. In those days the capital belonged to southern industrialists. Now it belongs to multi-national corporations […] The same people always suffer. Then it was the Great Sheep. Now it is the black black oil. Then it was done by outside capital, with the connivance of the local ruling class and central government – And the people had no control over what was happening to them. Now it is being done by outside capital, with the connivance of the local ruling class and central government. Have we learnt anything from the Clearances? When the Cheviot came, only the landlords benefited. When the Stag came, only the upper-class sportsmen benefited.
Now the Black Black Oil is coming. […] It could benefit everybody. But if it is developed in the capitalist way, only the multi-national corporations and local speculators will benefit.” (McGrath, 72-73).

20 Berthold Schoene speaks in this context of her “resurrection” (181), which implies that Mrs McKee, who was internally nearly “eaten up” by her “ghosts” and thus nearly dead, is now brought back to life/liveliness.

21 See these statistical data: In 2011 (i.e. approx. 40-50 years after the period of time in which Greenvoe is set), 40 % of Orcadians stated they were members of the Church of Scotland whereas only 24 % of citizens living in Edinburgh declared themselves to be part of this Calvinist church in the same year (see National Records of Scotland 2016).

22 Both Gunn and Mac Colla use Donald MacLeod’s Gloomy Memories of the Highland as a source text, a fact which explains these similarities (See for more details: MacLeod in Alexander Mackenzie, 15-16 and Ebest, 83-86).

Auteur

Bamberg University.
Bamberg University, and Würzburg University, Germany.
Dr. Mario Ebest is a university lecturer at Kassel University, Bamberg University, and Würzburg University, where he teaches English/Scottish cultural studies, English/Scottish literature as well as Academic Writing. He was the deputy director of the language centre at Kassel University from 2010 to 2013. In 2015, he completed his Ph.D on the trauma of the Highland Clearances. His current research focuses on Brexit and its postcolonial implications for the Celtic Fringe (discourse analysis). He is the author of, among others, “Coming to Terms with the Agony of the Highland Clearances – or Not ? An Analysis of Two Novels from the Point of View of Traumatisation.” (2013) ; “Die Traumatische Vertreibung der subaltern Hochländer im Rahmen der Highland Clearances” (2016) ; and “Gaelicisations and Their Functionality in Novels by Fionn Mac Colla and Neil M. Gunn : Linguistic Hybridity Enabling the Subaltern Trauma of the Clearances to be Processed and (Partly) Unmuted.” (2017).

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