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The History of Orkney Literature
Out of Print

History, Local History
John Donald
Publication Date
01 May 2010
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
8pp b/w plates

The History of Orkney Literature

by Simon W. Hall - Find out more about the author

Joint Winner of the 2010 Saltire Royal Mail Scottish First Book of the Year

'A treasure trove of suggestion and inspiration for further reading, study and writing'  Orkney Today

Since the middle ages, Orkney has proved remarkable for the volume and the quality of its literary output. From the skalds and sagamen of the Viking age, through to the colourful folklorists, polemicists and translators of the Victorian era, and the internationally acclaimed poets and novelists of the twentieth century, Orkney has continually and self-consciously developed a unique literary culture of its own. This clearly defined artistic territory resembles a sub-nation at times, and is characterised not by insularity, but by what might be termed a positive ‘insularism’ – defining, reinventing and presenting itself to the world.

The History of Orkney Literature is the first full survey of literary writing from and about the Orkney Islands. The book presents readings of uncomplicatedly Orcadian writers such as Walter Traill Dennison, Edwin Muir, Eric Linklater, Robert Rendall and George Mackay Brown. It also considers major texts written by ‘outside’ authors which are nevertheless demonstrably Orcadian in terms of their setting, style and influence. The History of Orkney Literature charts the development of this distinctly Orcadian strand within Scottish literature, and shows how the archipelago, rather than the nation, can indeed be the defining locus of a compact and vibrant literary tradition.

Simon Hall graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in Scottish Language and Literature in 1996, winning the university’s Ewing Prize for Scottish Literature. In 2004, he completed a PhD in Scottish Literature, also at Glasgow University, and he is currently Principal Teacher of English at Kirkwall Grammar School, Orkney.

He contributed a section to the reference guide Scottish Literature (2002), edited by Douglas Gifford, Sarah Dunnigan and Alan MacGillivray, and wrote the introduction for the new Kennedy and Boyd edition of Margaret Elphinstone’s novel Islanders.

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