The concept of national cinema rests on two underlying assumptions: first, that “films produced in a national context will display some distillation of the historical, social and political culture of that country”; second, that “cinema (as one aspect of popular culture) plays a role in the construction of national identity, thus participating in the building of what Benedict Anderson termed “an imagined community” —or perhaps more appropriately in this case, an imaged community.

In the case of Scotland, this imaging early on took the form of iconographies inherited from history: such films as the first Scottish feature, Rob Roy (Arthur Vivian, 1911), or the adaptation of Stevenson’s Kidnapped (George Terwilliger, US, 1917) are often seen as early examples of cinematic tartanry, with their blend of local custom and costume, chivalric code, representation of the Highlander as noble savage, and all the visual markers received from long-standing pictorial representation, later joined by Kailyard (Scotland as an insular country, the insistence on local intrigue…) and “Clydesideism” with films mythologizing industrial Scotland (Red Ensign, Michael Powell, 1934, is frequently listed as an example).

But it is not just films that help visually create and disseminate this national image. For Duncan Petrie, novels, cinema and TV productions are “narrative-based popular forms that provide the means by which the myths and realities, experiences and dreams of Scotland and its inhabitants have been reflected and asserted, imagined and reimagined through a process of cultural transmission dating back to the bardic tradition of oral storytelling. Moreover, these are also the forms that have enjoyed the widest and broadest circulation and consumption –both at home and abroad– reinforcing their significance as the primary media through which the cultural transformation of Scotland … has been creatively addressed and conveyed to audiences”, this in a context “of a sub-national entity located within the British state … necessarily bound up with the assertion of cultural difference, political self-determination and the creative appropriation of myth and mythologisation”.

Fiction, however, is just part of the story, and the circulation of the image of Scotland owes just as much to pictures in the context of documentaries, the news, commercials… and other media formats.

The 18th issue of the journal Scottish Studies will be devoted to the relationship between Scotland and the moving image.

Some of the themes that can be legitimately approached include:

  • FICTION: Scottish, British or international. What defines Scottish cinema or audiovisual fiction? What films, genres… can be said to be specifically Scottish, or reappropriated in a Scottish way? But also, how does the status of the cinema as a collaborative form of art interfere with a film’s Scottishness? For example, in what ways are films like Sweet Sixteen or Trainspotting, both by English directors, deemed “Scottish”? In the fields of funding, production, distribution and exhibition, in relation to audiences, how is a movie or a series “Scottish”? The presence of Scottish cinema on the internet (forums, blogs,…) can also be dealt with. What is the relationship between audiovisual production and the Scottish literary canon, or more modern works? Conversely, in what way does Scottish cinema infuse Scottish literature?What is the relation of Scottish audiovisual fiction to its British counterpart? Or with other so-called “sub-state” traditions, such as that of Ireland?What is the impact of international productions in and about Scotland (Braveheart, Outlander…) on the national image?
  • DOCUMENTARIES AND THE NEWS: what is the existence of Scotland in the media landscape, especially an increasingly globalized one? Particularly, what discourses and means of establishing truth-telling are used to testify to the accuracy of what is reported? How are they contested?
  • COMMERCIALS: how is Scotland “branded” in terms of the moving image? How is a specifically Scottish imagery constructed, for whom, how is it contested or revised for commercial purposes?

These are of course just examples of the many developments possible for the theme “Scotland and the moving picture”.

A brief proposal (200-300 words) should be sent by 15 July 2019.

Papers (45,000 signs max., including spaces) may be submitted in French or English, but authors must first obtain the appropriate style-guide. The deadline for finished papers is 10 November 2019.

Contact :


The journal Études écossaises/Scottish Studies contributes to the ongoing research project of the Institut des Langues et Cultures d’Europe, des Amériques, d’Afrique, d’Asie et d’Australie (ILCEA4 — Grenoble Alpes University).