1st Edition

Enlightenment and Romance in James Macpherson’s The Poems of Ossian Myth, Genre and Cultural Change

By Dafydd Moore Copyright 2003

    This study examines the relationship between Enlightenment and romance through the work of James Macpherson and in particular his The Poems of Ossian. By re-reading Macpherson's work in ways not restricted by the sterile and by now largely settled debates over authenticity, Moore establishes Ossian's credentials to be considered as romance, in its manner of construction, its represented sensibility, and in its engagement with the potentialities and limitations of eighteenth-century discourses of sympathy and society. An increasing amount has been written on Macpherson over the last ten or so years, and at last it seems possible to talk about The Poems of Ossian without reference to questions of authenticity or charges of forgery. Yet the polarised debate over the authenticity of the Poems has been superseded by equally polarised arguments about such matters as the cultural significance and politics of Ossian, arguments in which the poems have been used as a convenient peg on which to hang various, often predetermined, positions. Fresh and groundbreaking, this study recentres Ossian revisionism by providing an account of a series of works increasingly talked about, but still little read or understood.

    Contents: Preface; Introduction; The Ossianic epic and the 18th-century romance; Ossian, romance and source; Ossian, sentimentalism and the modalities of romance; Ossian and the romance of muscular sensibility; Sympathy, community and the sentimental sublime; Ossian and the romance of defeat; Conclusion: After Ossian?; Bibliography; Index.


    Dafydd Moore

    'This book's freshness of approach, wealth of reading, and bibliographical depth will benefit Macpherson studies and stimulate scholarly debate.' 18th Century Scotland '... impressive and subtle reading... achieves what good criticism should always aspire to, sending the reader back to rediscover texts she thought she knew... Intelligently conceived, vigorously and engagingly argued, Enlightenment and Romance should stand alongside the work of Howard Gaskill and Fional Stafford... This is an indispensable addition to the body of modern Ossian scholarship.' Scottish Studies Review