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Sunday, 1 July 2012

James Hogg Society 2012 Conference: Some Memories

The James Hogg Society conference was recently held at the University of Glasgow in Scotland (June 29 - July 1, 2012). Kirsteen McCue, co-director of the university's Centre for Robert Burns Studies, hosted the event (http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/critical/staff/kirsteenmccue/).

It was a fabulous conference at which we heard papers on many works rarely discussed by either the public or academics. These included Hogg's sermons and dramatic works. We also learned about Hogg's wildly "extreme" and disturbing pastoral vision and the relevance of medicine and astronomy to his writings. Hogg's relationship with other male writers were also considered; one of these relationships was (wittily and playfully) described as a "bromance" -- reminding us of the importance of homosocial bonds to the Ettrick Shepherd. New approaches to Hogg's supernatural or ghostly imaginings were also introduced. Happily, the discourse of intrusion, sin, murder, mutilation, chaos, dissipation, and decay was balanced in the panels with that of fairies, sensibility, sentimentalism,  freedom, egalitarianism, enlightenment, and friendship, revealing the breadth and complexity of Hogg's life and writings.


A fascinating and rousing keynote address on the influence of James Hogg (and other Scottish writers and traditions) on Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights was given by Douglas Gifford.

Presenters at the conference came from as far as British Columbia, Alaska, Washington, and Mississipi and three of our British presenters managed to arrive safely despite enduring a harrowing journey on a train from London which found itself immersed in a flood, blocked by a landslide, and then threatened by a fire on the tracks!

On the last day of the conference some of the participants travelled to the Burns Museum in Ayr (photograph above). It was a tremendously exciting experience as it involved seeing and holding some of Burns's writings and possessions, including his commonplace book and two guns (an odd juxtaposition of Burnsean artifacts ... but all the more interesting for being so).

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