Scottish Utopian Fiction and the Invocation of God

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Abstract

Explicitly utopian novels are relatively uncommon in twentieth-century Scottish fiction, perhaps due to a prevailing conception of Scottish literature as inherently peripheral; for many critics and authors, Scotland is already a place outside the mainstream of political and historical narrative. Utopian themes and imagery, however, have frequently been used by Scottish writers to address the role of religious experience in contemporary life. In novels by Robin Jenkins, Neil M. Gunn, Alasdair Gray, and Iain M. Banks, the utopian form presents the possibility of abandoning traditional religious practices in favor of direct discourse with the divine. Even as they appear to repudiate organized religion, these novels also demonstrate the continued relevance of God and myth. Whether in outright science fiction such as Banks's Culture series and portions of Gray's "Lanark," classical utopias such as Gunn's "The Green Isle of the Great Deep," or ostensibly realist novels such as Jenkins's "The Missionaries," utopian imagery is used to examine what role the divine might have in a secular society. These Scottish utopias offer a place to discuss the relationships between individuals, communities, and nations and how these relationships are reconstituted in a modernity where God is known only as absence.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-117
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Utopian Studies
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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