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St Kilda and the Sublime

St Kilda and the Sublime This paper considers how the search for the sublime in nineteenth-century Scotlandfound its expression in the voyage to St Kilda, a remote island archipelago west ofScotland’s Outer Hebrides. It looks at the historical construction of StKilda as an ultima Thule for Victorian travellers, a site which offered anincongruous set of discourses on antiquity and modernity; improvement and romance;evangelicalism and impiety. Grounding the early interest in St Kilda ineighteenth-century aesthetic theory - specifically that of James MacPherson andEdmund Burke - the paper shows how this corporeal adventure into the Ossianic andoceanic sublime was disrupted by the islanders’ religion and socialorganization. If the rhetorical strategies of the early tourists located St Kilda‘on the edge of the world’, I draw attention to how the islandwas central to the ecclesiastical geography of Scotland. Given that fornineteenth-century Scotland the political life of the church eclipsed that of thestate, the use of St Kilda as an emblem of Presbyterian polity was highlysignificant. In the context of a modern Scottish nation searching for historicalperspectives on governance and community, the story of this ‘islandrepublic’ has become important in the production of contemporary meaning.By challenging the moral-political authority of the travellers’ accounts,I ascribe a greater degree of agency to the islanders and thereby question thedominant narrative of St Kildan history. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Ecumene SAGE

St Kilda and the Sublime

Ecumene , Volume 8 (2): 24 – Apr 1, 2001

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References (57)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
Copyright © by SAGE Publications
ISSN
0967-4608
DOI
10.1177/096746080100800202
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper considers how the search for the sublime in nineteenth-century Scotlandfound its expression in the voyage to St Kilda, a remote island archipelago west ofScotland’s Outer Hebrides. It looks at the historical construction of StKilda as an ultima Thule for Victorian travellers, a site which offered anincongruous set of discourses on antiquity and modernity; improvement and romance;evangelicalism and impiety. Grounding the early interest in St Kilda ineighteenth-century aesthetic theory - specifically that of James MacPherson andEdmund Burke - the paper shows how this corporeal adventure into the Ossianic andoceanic sublime was disrupted by the islanders’ religion and socialorganization. If the rhetorical strategies of the early tourists located St Kilda‘on the edge of the world’, I draw attention to how the islandwas central to the ecclesiastical geography of Scotland. Given that fornineteenth-century Scotland the political life of the church eclipsed that of thestate, the use of St Kilda as an emblem of Presbyterian polity was highlysignificant. In the context of a modern Scottish nation searching for historicalperspectives on governance and community, the story of this ‘islandrepublic’ has become important in the production of contemporary meaning.By challenging the moral-political authority of the travellers’ accounts,I ascribe a greater degree of agency to the islanders and thereby question thedominant narrative of St Kildan history.

Journal

EcumeneSAGE

Published: Apr 1, 2001

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