This introductory blog is really an expansion of the ‘About’ section, fleshing out some of the project’s aims, contexts and questions. It lacks the polemical verve of a first-issue editorial you might read in one of our magazines, but I hope it conveys the interest of Scotland’s periodical culture of the 1960s-90s. (by Scott Hames)
Small independent magazines played a major creative role in Scottish literature, culture and politics right across the 1960s-90s. Many featured poetry and short fiction (funded by the Scottish Arts Council) and were a key space in which writers, journalists and campaigners developed a shared national agenda centred on Scottish cultural difference, literary revival and democratic dissent.
Working in partnership with the National Library of Scotland, this AHRC Research Network brings together scholars of Scottish literature, history, politics and publishing to explore – and ‘re-circulate’ – this independent periodical culture. We have a wide range of titles in mind, from poetry journals to political magazines and cultural reviews, and several combining elements of each. We’re especially interested in connections between and across these organs, including the following titles held in the NLS collection:
Lines Review (1954-98), New Saltire (1961-64),
Poor.Old.Tired.Horse. (1962-68), Akros (1965-83),
Feedback (1966-67), Scottish International (Review) (1968-74),
New Edinburgh Review (1969-84), Chapman (1970- ),
Scotia and Scotia Review (1970-99), Calgacus (1975-76),
Q [Question] Magazine (1975-77), Crann-Tàra (1977-81),
Scottish Women’s Liberation Journal (1977-78), MsPrint (1978-81),
Cencrastus (1979-2006), Radical Scotland (1982-91), Edinburgh Review (1984- ),
Variant (1984-94, 1996-2012), Common Sense (1987-99),
West Coast Magazine (1988-97), Harpies and Quines (1992-94)
Not an exhaustive list!
If an earlier process of ‘cultural devolution’ paved the way for the new Scottish parliament in 1999, it can be directly witnessed in the writing and artwork of these magazines, and in the communities and alliances formed around and through them. These titles were also sites of literary innovation, featuring poems and stories by almost every major and emerging Scottish writer of the period.
The same titles featured key essays and critical interventions by thinkers such as Tom Nairn, Isobel Lindsay and George E. Davie, influential debates on the marginalisation of women’s writing, and were a key venue for the reassertion of Scottish folk traditions and the importance of Gaelic and Scots. Constant crossover between literary, cultural and electoral debate – from page to page and within the same article – is central to their interest and their influence.
Aiming to put these magazines back on the map – both for scholars and the wider public – the network will consider questions including:
- What prompted and enabled this Scottish periodical culture, supported by what institutions?
- What was its (short- and long-term) impact on Scottish literary and cultural production?
- Through what groupings and networks did these magazines circulate?
- To what extent did they shape or ‘constitute’ the Scottish political field to which they were addressed?
- What continuities can we see with today’s Scottish literary politics, media and activism?
We hope to expand and refine these questions via our activity and discussions – including regular blog posts – and will eventually seek to answer some of them in a volume of commissioned essays.
Many thanks for your interest in the project, and please don’t hesitate to be in touch – if you’d like news of SMN events, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org