Imagining the Miscellaneous Nation: James Watson's Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems

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"Imagining the Miscellaneous Nation: James Watson's. Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems." Eighteenth-Century Life. 1 September 2011; 35 (3): 60–80. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-1336799

Date created: 
2011-09-01
Identifier: 
DOI: 10.1215/00982601-1336799
Keywords: 
Scottish poetry
James Watson
Scottish literature
Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems
Abstract: 

As the first published anthology of Scottish poetry, the Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems has long been regarded as a milestone in Scottish literary history. But acknowledgments of the Choice Collection's importance have historically been coupled with criticisms about its content. In particular, the Collection has been taken to task for its seeming disregard for genre or tone. This essay seeks to reevaluate the assessment of the Choice Collection as a “flawed” text by considering the Collection in relation to several contemporary miscellanies. Furthermore, it investigates the national impulse behind Watson's employment of this particular genre. Recognizing the competing interests at stake in the Scottish political landscape of 1706, Watson uses the imaginative space of the miscellany to bring readers of different tastes and interests together to promote the cause of Scotland at a time when the nation's very existence was under threat. Such a rereading of Watson's collection also contributes toward a reevaluation of the impression that Scottish literature after the Act of Union is pathologically split, a reflection of what G. Gregory Smith referred to as the “Caledonian antisyzygy.”

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English
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Article
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