Romantic horizons : antique modernity in the guidebook to Scotland

Mahn, Churnjeet; Lunan, Lyndsay and Macdonald, Kirsty and Sassi, Carla, eds. (2008) Romantic horizons : antique modernity in the guidebook to Scotland. In: Re-Inventing Scotland. Peter Lang Pub Inc. ISBN 978-3-631-55063-2

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Abstract

Scotland’s tourist industry relies on the currency of essentialised, and highly marketable, vision of Scotland as a topography imbued with romance, whisky and shortbread. This paper seeks to historicise part of the construction of these stereotypes through the emergence of a new type of discursive formation in the nineteenth century: the modern guidebook. The series of guidebooks to Scotland produced by the publishing houses of A&C Black and John Murray, were amongst the first of the ongoing attempts to determine what a journey to Scotland would look like. They did not simply mediate the Scottish landscape for travellers, but contributed to the very limits of how Scotland would be realised in the imagination of travellers. The early guidebooks were dense in quotations from literary celebrities such as Robert Burns and Walter Scott (some of Scott’s descriptions of fictional scenes actually supplanted the description of real landscapes). However, as the guidebook developed, the quotation marks were erased and the literary vignettes were subsumed into the overarching authority of the guidebook. Scenes from literary fiction and real scenes, which contained their own historical and cultural specificity, were contained within the single discourse of the guidebook without discrepancy or distinction. The commercial and discursive pressures of the guidebook necessitated an essentialised series of images which could be branded as ‘Scottish’. While the paper discusses the fictional construction of ‘mythic’ Scotland, the conclusion considers the ongoing popularity of the guidebook and the need for cultural markers, co-ordinates, via which identity can be constructed. What kind of meaningful Scottish realities are generated by the guidebook?