We are getting very excited about the upcoming video discussion panel on January 31 from 1:30pm – 3:00pm ET featuring Outlander author Diana Gabaldon and an outstanding cast of scholars and experts to discuss Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley and Ms. Gabaldon’s Outlander. Panel moderator Dr. Caroline McCracken – Flesher is putting together some great topics and questions for discussion. Let us know if you have a question for the panel and we will make sure it gets to them.
We hope you all are enjoying becoming acquainted – or reacquainted – with Walter Scott’s ground breaking story of a dashing young Sassanach hero who finds himself immersed and overtaken by the pre and post Culloden highlands and the exotic characters he meets there.
All must agree that Sir Walter Scott’s influence has been global and pervasive in shaping Scottish ancestral perceptions and performance. Social scientist R. Celeste Ray has written that ‘the impact of Sir Walter Scott and Highlandism in current heritage lore cannot be over emphasized’. She notes that Scottish descendants living in the Southern United States have “named pets, plantations and the occasional child after characters and places in Scott’s novels”. [Highland Heritage – Scottish Americans in the American South, UNC Press, 2001] Despite a recent ephemeral Braveheart nudge toward medievalism, Scott’s rigidly regimental highlands have dominated the vision of that place and the detail of Scottish heritage across the world for two centuries.
Today, however, when tens of millions of people across the globe think ‘Scottish
highlands’ they think James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, Gabaldon’s protaganist. Jamie Fraser presents a very different highlander than the finely clad straight arrow aristocratic image of Alasdair Ranaldson McDonnell of Glengarry – Scott’s model for his Jacobite highland chief Fergus Mac Ivor. With the popular Starz TV production chronicling the Outlander series there is now a face with a name; it is a gorgeous and perfect face, uttering the occasional gaelic expression, dressed in historically correct but carefully complimentary fashion, mounted on a high spirited steed riding through the ever scenic Scottish highlands with lass and clan at his side. A great chief but more outlaw than aristocrat. The lass is the bold and always feisty Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Fraser and the image is sealed.
After almost two centuries following the false pageantry of King George IV’s Edinburgh visit, Scottish diaspora fashion is actually beginning to lose some interest in the feilidh beag (short tailored kilt) of Walter Scott’s time. More and more, today’s highly fashionable Scottish emigrant ancestor is more likely to be clad in an ancient great kilt and droopy blue Jacobite bonnet as carefully described by Diana Gabaldon and sported by Outlander’s rogue ridden Mackenzie Clan.
Will Outlander’s rough romantic outlaw anti-aristocrat highlander finally replace the parade stiff militaristic aristocratic highlandism that has dominated Scottish heritage since Walter Scott’s introduction two centuries ago? Given the ever growing popularity of the Outlander series and its inevitable spin offs, a younger generation of Scotland’s emigrant ancestors are gobbling up a strong literary and visual depiction of a different Scotland. Change is on its way.
Outlander and its army of followers reflect a contemporary attitude and curiosity about what our ancestors were really like and what they endured and loved – not what the victorian engravings depicted. While Sir Walter Scott is properly a Scottish national hero and will ever remain so, Diana Gabaldon has helped to set the Scottish Diaspora on a more relevant and comfortable footing for the 21st Century. The torch has passed and the Scottish Diaspora is set to take on a new look and feel. Je Suis Prest!