Scottish Literature Course

Among the many assignments for the course on Scottish Literature I taught in Winter term for the University of Washington, my favorite was the creation of a Complete Works of Alexander Smith.  mith (1830-1867) is a marvelously gifted poet of the Scottish working class who exploded onto the worldwide literary scene in the 1850's and was hardly ever heard from again, despite pleas every 30 years or so, by someone who actually read his work, for people to appreciate his genius. (For more on this phenomenon from a scholarly angle, see LaPorte and Rudy eds. Special Edition of Victorian Poetry vol. 42.4 2004)  The pleas are ignored of course, and nothing of Smith's has been in print for 100 years. As a class, we took it upon ourselves to make a scholarly edition, (of James Thomson B.V., in another section) complete with introductions and footnotes, transcribing from scanned manuscripts where necessary. 


My second favorite assignment though, were these reading videos. Students selected, from any of the Scottish poets we confronted, a piece that they then read to their laptops and the broad world, in an act at once distanced from the public (less embarrassing than reciting in front of class) and of course, much more public in that some of these videos have been viewed on several continents by this point.  The interpretation, visualization, and editorial impulse are entirely their own.  I'll link to a sampling here, in order to keep things neat, but should you like to see more, many are posted on this YouTube channel

Responses to the prompt ranged as widely as the students themselves: ome sang, some drew, some montaged, and others pointed the camera at their faces and just read the poems with understanding and pace, but they were all illuminating readings, showcasing personality and verve. 

You can read a bit more about the class here, or as above, see the rest of the videos here, or learn a bit more about Smith and the Spasmodic School of poets here. Thanks to my Scottish Literature students for a memorable quarter.