St Andrew’s Day celebrations in Asia

By Tanja Bueltmann

As St Andrew’s Day nears Scots all around the world are preparing to celebrate it in style. From New York in the United States to Dunedin in New Zealand, St Andrew’s Day celebrations are now a truly global Scottish tradition.

In Asia, early references to celebrations come from India where St Andrew’s Day dinners were a common affair by the 1850s. From India, celebrations soon extend their geographic reach—a development in unison with the expansion of the British sphere of influence in the Far East. We find references to celebrations of St Andrew’s Day in Canton from the mid-1830s, when a larger number of free merchants commenced trade there. In 1835, for instance, ‘a splendid dinner was given by Mr. Jardine, at which sixty-seven gentlemen sat down.’ This Mr. Jardine is revealed to be William Jardine of Jardine Matheson & Co.

Port in Singapore, circa 1900

In Singapore too, a dinner was the focal point for early Scottish residents in the city, with the first reported for 1837. While not yet hosted by a formalized association, the dinner itself was a formal one, structured and well organized, with a chairman, croupier and stewards. Some guests attended clad ‘in the garb of the Old Gaul—“with bonnet blue and tartan plaid”’, and as usual, many speeches and toasts were delivered. By 1844 the dinner had become a more elaborate affair, attracting a good number of guests. But by then we can also hear of frictions in Singapore’s Scottish community. As was reported in the local press, the dinner only brought together ‘a section of the Scotchmen of Singapore’ rather than everyone. The organisation of the dinner, it seems, had not been straightforward, and those who were unhappy with how the existing group of organizers had handled the affair decided not to attend the dinner that was held.

Victoria Theatre and Victoria Memorial Hall circa. 1905

But the occasional disagreement was no deterrent and celebrations continued to be an important feature of Singapore’s annual events calendar. In the 1930s, in fact, celebrations were still so prominent that the Governor, Sir Shenton Thomas, delivered an annual speech. In 1935 the event was held on the lower floor of Victoria Memorial Hall, ‘with tartan and heather decorating the tables’. On arrival, Sir Shenton Thomas ‘was piped upstairs into the ballroom with the Chieftain’. Also piped in was the haggis, the traditional Scottish dish a staple at celebrations to this day. Guests, in their hundreds, ‘dined to the tines of Songs of Hebrides played by the Raffles Hotel orchestra led by Mr. Hopkins—himself a Scot!’ Later on dancing took place in a hall upstairs.

In his speech John Sime, President of the St Andrew’s Society, was keen to stress the contributions Scots made around the world [original article]:

‘Scotsmen have pioneered in every quarter of the world … They have given the world gems of literature, great inventions and discoveries in science. … Their dogged tenacity of purpose which is their heritage, has made them play a part in the world’s history far bigger than the law of averages would give them if they were just as other men. … This is our day. Drink with us to our Patron Saint and Bonnie Scotland …’

In that spirit of celebrations: wishing you A happy St Andrew’s Day!


Dr Tanja Bueltmann is Associate Professor in History at Northumbria University. She has published widely on the history of the Scottish Diaspora, including the award-winning monograph Clubbing Together: Ethnicity, Civility and Formal Sociability in the Scottish Diaspora to 1930.Britain and the Word Volume IX Issue II

Visit The Scottish Diaspora Blog for more.

Tanja’s article,  Making Home in a Sojourner World: Organised Ethnicity and British Associationalism in Singapore, c1880s–1930s, appears in Volume 9, Issue 2 (2016) of Britain and the World. 


Muslims in Scotland: Demographic, social and cultural characteristics

By Stefano Bonino

First published on the LSE Religion and the Public Sphere blog – read the original article

Far removed from the cinematic and media depictions of Muslims as angry and threatening fundamentalists are the everyday experiences of many Muslims who conduct ordinary lives with a flavour of religious and cultural distinctiveness. This could not be any truer than in Scotland, where the Muslim community, about 77,000 people (1.4 per cent of the total population) according to the 2011 Census, has experienced a relatively smooth settlement in the country. Notably, research has found that lower settlement numbers, fewer worries about terrorism and the welcoming disposition and sociability of Scots have made Muslim integration into society easier than in England. The story of Muslims in Scotland is – to put it in former Ambassador Akbar Ahmed’s words – one indicative of ‘how an indigenous society can live in harmony with immigrant communities.’

Data from the 2011 Census demonstrates that the Scottish Muslim population is a constellation of people from very diverse ethnic, cultural and theological backgrounds. Almost 70 per cent of Muslims in the country are concentrated in four cities: Glasgow (42 per cent), Edinburgh (16 per cent), Aberdeen (6 per cent) and Dundee (5 per cent). Glasgow represents a typical British Muslim community, as two thirds of its Muslims are Pakistani. This situation is similar to East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Falkirk, Fife, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewsh9781474408028-1ire, South Lanarkshire and West Lothian, where between 61 per cent and 87 per cent of the local Muslim populations are of Pakistani origin or heritage.

On the contrary, Edinburgh and Dundee host Muslim communities comprised of a smaller percentage of Pakistanis (respectively, 43 per cent and 50 per cent) and a much larger percentage of Arabs (respectively, 17 per cent and 15 per cent). This heterogeneity is even more pronounced in Aberdeen, the British oil capital, which hosts five groups (Pakistani, Arab, Bangladeshi, African and other Asian), each consisting of between about 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the total Muslim population.

Muslim identities are an imperfect, yet a useful, indicator of sentiments of belonging to the country. The 2011 Census shows that Scottish Muslims feel more Scottish (24 per cent) than English Muslims feel English (14 per cent) and over two thirds of them express some sort of affiliation to the United Kingdom. The distribution of Muslims’ national identities across Scotland varies, as much as Muslim ethnic communities do. Pakistani Muslims tend to prioritise their Scottish (31 per cent) or British (34 per cent) identities instead of their ethnic ones (13 per cent), while Arabs are more likely to affiliate with their ethnic identity of origin (47 per cent) rather than with Scottish (18 per cent) or British (17 per cent) identities.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Muslims in Glasgow and Dundee record higher feelings of belonging to Scotland and lower affiliations to their non-UK ethnic identities compared to Muslims in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Indeed, Glasgow and Dundee are two cities where Pakistanis make up 50 per cent or more of the local Muslim population and are two of only four Scottish local authorities where the overall Scottish population voted for independence in the 2014 referendum. Instead, Edinburgh and Aberdeen’s large Arab populations (15 per cent or more of their local Muslim populations) and the turnover of more transient people ‘on the go’ in these major economic Scottish centres can explain lower levels of affiliation to Scotland and higher levels of affiliation to non-UK ethnic identities among their respective Muslim communities (34 per cent in Edinburgh and 53 per cent in Aberdeen).

As the Scottish Muslim community changes, so does the landscape of Scotland. We have come a long way since the first mosque in Scotland was inaugurated at 27/29 Oxford Street in Glasgow in 1944 and the first burial plot for the interment of Muslims was acquired in the Sandymount Cemetery. Edinburgh followed suit in 1962, opening its first mosque and the second one in Scotland, while Dundee had its own mosque by the end of the 1960s. Today, Scotland hosts seventy-six locations for prayer, consisting of mosques, temporary spaces for prayer, prayer rooms managed by university Islamic societies or Muslim community centres. These visible symbols of Islam within the Scottish geography, along with ethnic grocery stores, restaurants and take away shops, have made Muslim presence in the country an everyday reality.

Several indicators evidence the relatively smooth integration of Muslims in Scotland. The community’s small numbers and the lack of ethno-religious clustering, save for Pollokshields and Govanhill in Glasgow, have facilitated contact between Muslims and non-Muslims. Pakistanis, many of whom originally migrated from the well-off area of Faisalabad in Punjab, have also preferred self-employment, therefore not competing for public services in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, they stayed away from major troubles. The Rushdie Affair-related disturbances in 1988-89 and the 2001 and 2011 English riots were not mirrored by similar violent action in Scotland. At the same time, clashes between South Asians and white people (e.g. in Pollokshields in 2003) did not reach the levels of riots in English cities, such as Birmingham, Bradford and Burnley.

The sectarian tensions that have historically gnawed at the relationship between Catholics and Protestants, and predated the settlement of the majority of the South Asian community, have partly cushioned other religious minorities (including Muslims) from more serious prejudice. Similarly, neo-fascist and racist groups, including their more recent manifestations in the form of the Scottish Defence League, have never gained a foothold, thus reducing the space for anti-Muslim populist discourse.

As previous research shows, Anglophobia both ‘displaces Islamophobia by providing another target and [. . .] helps to reduce within-Scotland phobias by providing Scots with a common, external, and very significant “Other.”’ The governing Scottish National Party (SNP)’s stances against ‘all things Westminster’ have contributed to the fostering of anti-English sentiments. Scottish government’s opposition to the Trident nuclear programme, welcoming attitudes towards minorities, refugees and asylum seekers and continuing criticism of the British government are political positions that are close to Muslims’ expectations and that can explain Muslims’ gradual shift in support from Labour to the SNP. But the SNP has not only released statements that speak directly to Muslim hearts: their vocal resistance to the disastrous Iraq War is a case in point. The party has also tackled the ‘minority question’ in inclusionary terms, for example by rolling out the Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-30 and by aligning its asylum policies with international covenants.

At the same time, a historical ‘oppressed Scottish identity’ has united two communities, the Scots and the Muslims, that have often felt the victims of an ‘imperialist’ and ‘hegemonic’ England and has fostered a marriage of political convenience between Scotland and Islam. Here, the civic and more inclusive nature of Scottishness, as compared to the ethnic and more exclusive nature of Englishness, has facilitated the development of dual Scottish Muslim identities.

The story of Scottish Muslims can serve as a positive example for other European countries and the successful journeys of some of its most prominent figures are a reminder of the political possibilities offered by an outward looking country: Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s first Muslim Minister; Mohammad Sarwar, the first Muslim MP in Great Britain, elected in Glasgow in 1997; Bashir Maan, the first Muslim city councilor in Great Britain, elected in Glasgow in 1970; and the late Bashir Ahmad, the first ethnic minority MSP, elected in 2007.

Yet we should not forget the dark shades that have coloured, and continue to colour, Muslim migration and settlement in the country. The active involvement of Scotland in the British Empire, the historical prejudice against migrant labour, high levels of racism suffered by Pakistanis and the overzealous scrutiny of Muslims at airports highlight the dangers of depicting Scotland as a uniquely tolerant and inclusive society. Muslims’ theological fractures and sectarian divisions also spotlight persisting struggles to mend the community’s internal fragmentations and to participate fully in a common national story. But while anti-Muslim sentiments exist and some Muslims still face difficulties in reconciling cultural and religious practices with the surrounding social environment, Scotland can and should become a model of a relatively successful case study on the accommodation of Islam and Muslim diversity within a Western country.



Dr Stefano Bonino is the author of Muslims in Scotland: The Making of Community in a Post-9/11 World (Edinburgh University Press, 2016).



Women and Poverty: A Human Rights Perspective

Meghan Campbell

Despite a renewed global commitment to reduce extreme poverty and achieve gender equality, women throughout the world continue to disproportionately live in poverty. While the causes of women’s poverty are complex and inter-locking, the role of patriarchal cultural and social norms cannot be overstated. Due these deeply embedded gender norms, throughout the world women perform an unequal share of care work within the home which is neither valued nor remunerated. The disproportionate amount of unpaid care work women to perform restricts their ability to access high-quality education and to secure decent and well paid employment. It is also crucial to appreciate the role of law. Discriminatory laws on marriage, divorce, inheritance, taxation and social assistance can contribute and perpetuate women’s poverty. It is the combination of legal, customary and social norms based on the inferiority of women that creates and perpetuates women’s poverty. The interaction of gender and poverty is even more are pronounced when they combine with other factors of exclusion: ethnicity, caste, remoteness, age, race, disability and sexual orientation.

All too often poverty has been addressed from a gender neutral standpoint. Development policies have traditionally conceptualised gender inequality and poverty as two separate problems. In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a more nuanced approach has been adopted. The SDGs recognise the importance of developing gender sensitive poverty reduction strategies. Given the magnitude and the pervasiveness of women’s poverty, much more work remains to be done.

What role can human rights play in addressing women’s poverty? Human rights set normative standards and place duties on states to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all people, including women in poverty. Under the human rights framework women in poverty are not passive recipients of charity but empowered agents who can holds states to account for their laws, polices and programmes that undermine their rights and foster poverty.

In order to shine a spotlight on the intersection of women and poverty and the promise of human rights, we organised an international conference in Kigali, Rwanda in April 2014 which was sponsored by the Oxford Human Rights Hub, the Oxford Martin School Human Rights for Future Generations Programme, the University of Cape Town and the University of Rwanda. The international conference ‘Women and Poverty: A Human Rights Perspective’ gathered together more than 100 lawyers, economists, sociologists, judges, practitioners, students, academics, non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and politicians from East Africa and further afield to focus on the question of women and poverty and the relationship with human rights law. The conference papers have recently been published in a special edition of the African Journal of International and Comparative Law.


Each of the papers examines a different aspect of the relationship between poverty and human rights but there are several overlapping themes that emerge. First, although states may have constitutional and statutory guarantees of equality these have not been fully utilised. Moreover, law has not yet been able to disrupt the societal and cultural norms that underpin women’s poverty. For example, despite laws establishing the principle that women and men have equal rights to own property, women continue to experience resistance to exercising their rights to own and control land. This calls out for creative new solutions both in law and the broader society and culture to ensure gender equality is achieved for all women.

Second, poverty has been traditionally conceptualised as a lack of material resources and opportunities. In reality, however, women’s poverty is more than economic status. It is imperative to take a broad, holistic view on how law impacts women and look beyond economic policies to education, health care, inheritance, negative socio-cultural norms, violence against women, customary laws and migration structures. It is also crucial to extend the view of ‘the workplace’ beyond the formal employment relationship, to capture new forms of informal and entrepreneurial work.

Old frameworks and ingrained practices that perpetuate women’s poverty and inequality can and should be challenged and redesigned. The human rights framework provides one avenue forward. The focus needs to shift on how to operationalize the human rights framework so that it is sensitive to women in poverty.

Browse the full special issue at


Dr Meghan Campbell is the Weston Junior Research Fellow, New College, University of Oxford and Deputy-Director of the Oxford Human Rights Hub. These ideas are explored further in her upcoming monograph Using Equality to Address Women’s Poverty (Hart Publishing, forthcoming).


Modernism in Public

By Rod Rosenquist and Alice Wood

As we near the end of 2016, ‘the people’ keep finding ways to make political headlines. In Britain, a failed coup in a major political party has cleared the way for ‘the people’ to increase the mandate for a popular leader, while a referendum on the nation’s membership of the European Union roused ‘the people’ to vote ‘Leave’ in defiance of conventional wisdom – as some narratives would have it. In the wake of the vote for Brexit, Nigel Farage celebrated a ‘victory for real people’ – thus relegating the 48% who voted ‘Remain’ as neither ‘the people’ nor entirely ‘real’.  They were ‘the elite’, the out of touch. In the US, even Donald Trump – embattled and denounced from all sides, including by his own party – still claims to speak for ‘the people’. In May, Trump responded to patchy support for himself by announcing that ‘the only important thing is the unification of the people – because the other people don’t mean anything’, in one tidy phrase uniting and dividing ‘the people’ into a public that counts and a public that does not. While celebrity politicians like Trump, Farage and Corbyn, or celebrated catch phrases like Brexit, continue to command attention, it is the public supporting them, antagonising them, or being imagined by them that makes this one of the more complex political decades in recent memory.

Marianne Moore

A hundred years ago, modernist artists and thinkers were negotiating many of the same tensions. Rising literacy, an explosion in print media and the development of new technologies such as broadcast radio and cinema led to a battle between cultural elites and the masses, in which modernist writers and artists sought to engage or reject the will and whims of this vast and indistinct general public. In recent decades, the perception of a ‘Great Divide’ between modernism and mass culture has been challenged by a number of critical works reviewing the relationship of the modernist artist to commercial markets, popular culture, the public sphere and the masses more generally defined. But in all this revision, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: modernism remains the subject of this critical narrative and ‘the public’ has remained its object. While the New Modernist Studies has exposed the endeavours of modernist artists to bridge this divide and the emergence of modernism’s ‘public face’, ‘the public’ itself continues to be seen, often through modernist eyes, as an homogenised mass – like Wyndham Lewis’s ‘The Crowd’ – there only for the artist to channel, to herd, to experiment with.

Jean Rhys
Jean Rhys

In a special issue of Modernist Cultures entitled ‘Modernism in Public’ (November 2016), we introduce seven articles on the two-way relationship between modernism and its various publics. We aim to show how far modernism was sometimes the object of mass culture – shaped, adopted, manipulated or outright rejected, openly and in public.For example, Sophie Oliver reveals how Jean Rhys’s modernist stories not only take fashion and the fashionable as their subject matter, but how, later in life, Rhys herself was made an object in mass-market periodicals, dressed up for photo shoots and framed by the renewed interest in her work. Rod Rosenquist traces the mirrored interests of Gertrude Stein studying advertising culture, and advertising copywriters studying her prose experiments. Faye Hammill explores the parties, and the glossy pages of gossipy magazines, where famous modernists, like Rebecca West, rubbed shoulders with celebrity non-modernists, like Noël Coward – at once heightening their position as cultural elites while allowing the public to join them backstage.

Alice Wood exposes the mutually-beneficial exchanges between modernists and the British edition of Harper’s Bazaar as this elite fashion magazine exploited modernism’s high cultural value to support its construction of a culturally sophisticated readership. Hana Leaper documents the attempts of Claude Flight and the Grosvenor School of artists to create a mainstream audience for their modernist linocuts, and Flight’s failure to understand the public whose taste he sought to influence. Daniel Moore surveys the efforts of British modernist artists and architects to cultivate public taste and effect widespread social change through design and decoration of the home. Finally, Andrew Thacker examines the bookshop as a commercial outlet for modernism and a cultural inlet for the public, a social space bringing together writers, readers and vendors of modernism within the shared language of being ‘We Moderns’. These enquiries into ‘Modernism in Public’ share the desire to uncover both how modernists approached the masses and how different versions of the public consumed, constructed or ignored modernism. Indeed, this special issue argues that ‘the public face of modernism’ should be understood not only as the face prepared by modernists to meet their public, but as the face offered to modernism by mainstream media and the public itself.

About the authors

Rod Rosenquist

Rod Rosenquist is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Northampton.  He is author of Modernism, the Market and the Institution of the New (Cambridge 2009), co-editor with John Attridge of Incredible Modernism: Literature, Trust and Deception (Ashgate 2013), and author of articles on literary celebrity and modernist life writing appearing in Comparative American Literature, Literature Compass, Critical Survey and Genre.

Alice Wood is Senior Lecturer in English at De Montfort University. Alice WoodShe is the author of Virginia Woolf’s Late Cultural Criticism (Bloomsbury, 2013) and several articles exploring interactions between modernist writers and commercial periodicals, including a chapter on ‘Modernism and the Middlebrow in British Women’s Magazines, 1916-1930’ in Middlebrow and Gender, 1880-1945, ed. Christoph Ehland and Cornelia Wächter (Rodopi Brill, 2016).


Brain Candy – My Top 6 Best First Person Zombie Narratives

By Stacey Abbott

As the evenings draw in and the temperature drops, my mind turns toward the ghostly, the ghoulish and the gruesome (Tis the Season to be Gruesome’).  These days it also turns toward the apocalyptic, with the autumnal return of post-apocalyptic television such as The Strain, The Walking Dead and iZombie. The undead are increasingly the face of horror within twenty-first century popular culture but in recent years variation has made the zombie the voice of horror as well. This comes with the rise of first person zombie narratives, in many ways mirroring the sympathetic vampire in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. T9780748694907his is particularly the case with the zom-rom-com Warm Bodies (2013), which humorously, and knowingly, offers a zombie spin on Twilight, chronicling human/zombie star-crossed lovers. But the sympathetic zombie goes back further to George Romero’s Bub in Day of the Dead (1985), trained to mimic human behaviour and resist eating living humans, primarily because he is being fed human flesh. Despite evoking sympathy, Bub remains fundamentally unknowable. In recent years, the zombie format has been reworked to invite audiences or readers into the mind of the living dead, facilitating the sharing of his or her undead experience. For some this goes against what the zombie genre is all about – an unknowable terrifying monstrous force – but for others this opens up the zombie to new meanings. In this manner, the zombie genre has forged its own distinct path across literature, film and television. With this in mind, I would like to offer my top six examples of the First Person Zombie narrative that bring something new to chew over when thinking about the undead.

6. Colin (Mark Price UK 2008)

This British film was made for a total of £45 and tells the story of Colin, a recently turned zombie, from the point of infection to his eventual and final demise. While he is the most conventional of zombies, lacking the ability to express himself and shuffling Romero-style around the city in search of food, the film maintains a Colin-side view of the apocalypse in which humanity seem to be the real monsters. Visceral and gruesome, this is a must see for the zombie fan.

5. Zom-B (Darren Shan UK 2012)  

Darren Shan’s young adult series of novels is narrated by B Smith – a British teenager, raised by a racist father, who is killed on the first day of the outbreak only to be revitalised into a sentient zombie who must subsist on a diet of grey matter in order to maintain any link to humanity.  This novel explores what it means to be human, to grow up and to be heroic in an increasingly violent and isolating world, split into near-tribal factions.  The manner in which B negotiates and confronts the racist beliefs and ideologies that are brought to the foreground in this post-apocalyptic society makes this a very timely and often poignant story.

4. Husk (Corey Redekop CAN 2012)

In this great Canadian zombie novel, Corey Redekop offers a biting satire of celebrity culture when out of work actor Sheldon Funk dies on a bus travelling from New York to Toronto after a failed audition, only to wake up on the coroner’s table to find that he is now a zombie.  His unique condition, however, eventually makes him a celebrity and a star. But don’t worry this comedic approach does not soften the more gruesome and bleak aspects of the zombie genre. They come aplenty but laced with a dry comic turn as Sheldon reflects upon his zombie-condition and the trials of stardom while chowing down on human flesh. The humour seems inherently Canadian and the ending is both comic and disturbingly nihilistic.

3. The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy UK 2016)

Based upon M.R. Carey’s novel, this is a British dystopian vision of a future world in which humanity is struggling to survive an outbreak that has transformed most people into what are referred to as ‘Hungries’ – you can guess what that means. Holed up in a military/scientific installation reminiscent of Romero’s Day of the Dead  is a hybrid child, Melanie, who possesses the innocence and love of a child mixed with a craving for living flesh – a  disturbing combination. Neither human nor full-on zombie, the film follows Melanie as she negotiates her role as potential saviour of humanity or a vision of a new future.

2. iZombie (Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero US 2015)

Based upon a graphic novel, this supernatural detective television series is told from the point of Liv Moore (get it?), a med student turned zombie when she wakes up after a boat-party/ zombie massacre in a body bag with a craving for human brains. Like B in Darren Shan’s books, Liv discovers that if she eats brains, she retains her own identity but she also inherits the memories and personality of the brains she has eaten. This helps her to solve crimes and provides great comic moments as she flips from a penchant for kleptomania to an obsession with online video games to a passion for designer clothes and shopping. Offering a witty and comic exploration of the fluidity of identity and the performative nature of gender, the series also has a darker edge as Liv uncovers a hidden and spreading zombie apocalypse, covered up by corporate greed and corruption.

1. In the Flesh  (Dominic Mitchell UK 2013-14)

This British television series was the brain child of Dominic Mitchell and is set within a post-post zombie apocalypse where after years of struggling to survive, a treatment for the undead has been found, thus ending the war, at least on the surface.  As Kieran Walker, a treated zombie, or Partially Deceased Syndrome Sufferer, returns to his home town, he must face his family and community, still fearful and distrustful of the undead. This zombie narrative explores the nature of grief, loss, guilt and individual and collective trauma as experienced by the living and the dead. No-one is untouched by the horrors of the zombie apocalypse and all must learn to deal with their guilt and their losses in order to move onward. Provocative and daring, this is by far my favourite zombie TV series in recent years.

So while zombie texts such as The Walking Dead confront us with loss – the loss of civilisation, humanity and the people we love –  these First Person Zombie Narratives take us across the veil to see the apocalypse from the other side, raising important questions about the nature of identity, death and the realities of war, often questioning if humanity is worth saving. Significantly, when the zombie apocalypse inevitably comes, they provide us a glimpse of a future which might overtake us all. Food for thought? Try some of this brain candy.



Stacey Abbott is a Reader in Film and Television Studies at the University of Roehampton and the author of Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st Century. Her research focuses on the horror genre and the gothic in film and television, with a particular specialism in both vampires and zombies.

Find out more about Stacey Abbott’s new book Undead Apocalypse



By Sarah Wootton
Light is recapturing the attention of contemporary writers, critics, and artists. Ann Wroe’s Six Facets of Light (Cape, 2016) is a series of brilliant reflections on the subject. In 2015 Münster’s Museum of Art and Culture staged an exhibition entitled ‘Licht’ devoted to the work of the German artist Otto Piene (1928–2014), who experimented, among other things, with what the exhibition’s publicity calls ‘spatial light ballets and objects, as well as light art in public spaces’. Durham City has been the biennial venue for Lumiere, the UK’s largest light festival, since 2009. And on 23 November 2013, the Romantic Dialogues and Legacies research group based in the Department of English Studies at Durham University organised a symposium on light, sponsored by the University’s Institute of Advanced Study. The organisers of the symposium would like to thank those who attended for their participation in and support of the event.

The essays in my guest edited issue of Romanticism, (Volume 22 Issue 3) emerge from that symposium. They address imaginative representations of light in English literature from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Of particular interest is light as a focus for Romantic and post-Romantic ambivalence: about the value of enlightenment; about the nature of beauty and truth; about the significance of artistic representation; about the process of perception. Romantic writers sought to depict the various possibilities of ‘light’, an idea crucial to Western literature’s conceptions of meaning, revelation, and perfection. If light can serve as an emblem of absolute goodness, it can also suggest doubt and illusion, an example of which is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s depiction of the ‘shape all light’ in The Triumph of Life. The transformative, if elusive, qualities of light in the poetry of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley are inherited and reconfigured by writers in the transition to a post-Romantic period, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Brontë, and John Ruskin. Literary dialogues about light remain as contentious as they are illuminating for writers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Christopher Isherwood, and Wallace Stevens.

For the Romantic writer, as for those writing in their wake, light dazzles with an intensity that can blind and distort, and it can radiate with the lustre of insight and recede into doubt. These essays share a common concern with what is hidden or latent within light as well as with the creative tensions that emerge from the interconnectedness of and transience between light and dark. Recurring themes include the light ‘effects’ and attendant shadows produced by artificial as opposed to ‘natural’ light, and by fire, sun, moon, and starlight as opposed to what Geoffrey Hill refers to as ‘new-fangled light’ in The Orchards of Syon, XIII. Grounded in Romantic and post-Romantic literature, the essays in this issue have multidisciplinary implications that extend to cognate areas of cultural enquiry, such as art history, philosophy, politics, and theology.

This blog is extracted from Sarah Wootton’s Introduction to the issue.

Browse the full issue contents