Ghosts in Enlightenment Scotland
By (author) Martha McGill
Publication date:18 November 2018
Length of book:265 pages
SHORTLISTED for the Katharine Briggs Award 2019 Scotland is famed for being a haunted nation, "whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry". Medieval Scots told stories of restless souls and walking corpses, but after the 1560 Reformation, witches and demons became the focal point for explorations of the supernatural. Ghosts re-emerged in scholarly discussion in the late seventeenth century, often in the guise of religious propagandists. As time went on, physicians increasingly reframed ghosts as the conjurations of disturbed minds, but gothic and romantic literature revelled in the emotive power of the returning dead; they were placed against a backdrop of ancient monasteries, castles and mouldering ruins, and authors such as Robert Burns, James Hogg and Walter Scott drew on the macabre to colour their depictions of Scottish life. Meanwhile, folk culture used apparitions to talk about morality and mortality. Focusing on the period from 1685 to 1830, this book provides the first academic study of the history of Scottish ghosts. Drawing on a wide range of sources, and examining beliefs across the social spectrum, it shows how ghost stories achieved a new prominence in a period that is more usually associated with the rise of rationalism. In exploring perceptions of ghosts, it also reflects on understandings of death and the afterlife; the construction of national identity; and the impact of the Enlightenment. MARTHA MCGILL completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh.