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Introduction: Borderlines: Contemporary Scottish Gothic

  • Timothy C. Baker
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Part of the The Palgrave Gothic Series book series (PAGO)

Abstract

Robert Wise’s 1945 film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Body Snatcher’ features an ahistoric admixture of Scottish signifiers. The opening credits appear over a fixed shot of a reconstructed Edinburgh Castle while the orchestra plays a somewhat ominous version of ‘Loch Lomond’. The camera passes over a singing beggar and drovers in the city’s centre before alighting on the young medical student Donald Fettes (whom the viewer will soon learn hails from J.M. Barrie’s Thrums) feeding part of his lunch to Greyfriars Bobby. Before long, Bobby will be cruelly killed by Boris Karloff as cabman and resurrectionist John Gray, and the body snatching, linked to Burke and Hare, will begin in earnest. While the film is explicitly set in 1831, its references come from closer to Stevenson’s own time: Bobby, according to the famous statue outside Greyfriars Kirk, died in 1872, while the first of Barrie’s Thrums stories was published in 1889. These details seem selected not for historical accuracy, but because they straightforwardly represent ‘Scottishness’ to an international audience.

Keywords

Literary History Literary Tradition Print Culture Open Credit Ghost Story 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Caroline McCracken-Flesher, writing shortly before the latter film’s release, argues that it is, like the former, ‘still an outsider tale’; despite the emphasis on ‘Scottishness’ within these films, they could only emerge from outside Scotland. Caroline McCracken-Flesher (2012) The Doctor Dissected: A Cultural Autopsy of the Burke and Hare Murders (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Timothy C. Baker 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy C. Baker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AberdeenUK

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