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Imagining Scotland on Screen

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Over decades, filmmakers imagined Scotland according to their (often stereotypical) ideas of the land and its people. From the haunted castles and mysterious haar to the jolly bagpiping, kilt-cladded lads and lasses, this course will explore some of the images of Scotland perpetuated by Hollywood and other cinemas.

This course explores the way Scotland and Scottish people were (and sometimes still are) depicted in Hollywood and other cinemas. It will try to clarify some points and debate questions such as: Which aspects of Scottish culture appear more often in film? Where do they come from? How is Scottish identity portrayed? Why are certain traits highlighted and not others? Can we trace some of these images and ideas to literature and travel books?

The course will discuss aspects related to witchcraft, the supernatural and romantic visions of Scotland, with links to selected pre-cinematic texts, such as Walter Scott or James Hogg’s novels, and films such as The Ghost Goes West (Rene Clair, 1935) or Seven Dead in the Cat's Eye (Antonio Margheriti, 1973). We will then concentrate on films such as Brigadoon (Vincente Minnelli, 1954) or Fantomas vs. Scotland Yard (André Hunebelle, 1967) for closer examination of cinematic representations of Scottish customs and people.

Through a combination of film clips and class discussion the students are encouraged to reflect on questions of representation, culture and identity in film practices across the world. The debate will also take into account the different practices of commercial and independent cinemas.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment


Content of Course

This day course is organised in two sessions of approximately 2.5 hours with a lunch break.

Each session will be divided in two parts. The morning session will start with a short introductory lecture on representation of national identity on film, followed by film clips and discussions illustrating images of the supernatural and the Romantic vision of Scotland.

The afternoon session will concentrate on representation of Scottish people and customs in international cinema, alternating film clips with class discussions.

The last half hour is dedicated to group discussion of the issues raised during the day and conclusions.

Teaching method(s)

Over the day, students will have the opportunity to examine film and text excerpts and to discuss selected themes such as: How can cinema describe national identity from the point of view of an outsider? How does it differ from an insider’s view? What are the recurrent themes and images of Scottish culture appearing in foreign cinema? Why are they enduring? The fine line between local colour and stereotyping; The dangers and possible benefits of perpetuating some recurrent images; The understanding (and misunderstandings) of a foreign culture through the prism of cinema; The links between cinema and other arts (literature, visual arts) and how themes and subjects can be borrowed from one art to another.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

Describe how the understanding of Scottish identity has evolved over decades in international cinema;

Understand the way ideas, themes and images can originate and be perpetuated in different art forms, such as literature and visual arts;

Reflect and distinguish between national particularities and stereotypes;

Participate in group discussions and debate.


Core Readings

There are no essential readings. For a further exploration of the themes, the recommended list may include:

  • Hardy, Forsyth (1990).Scotland in film. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press

  • McArthur, Colin (2003).Brigadoon, Braveheart and the Scots : Scotland in Hollywood cinema. London : I.B. Tauris

  • Nowlan, Bob ; Finch, Zach (eds.) (2015). Directory of world cinema. Scotland. Bristol : Intellect

  • Films to be discussed:

  • (The selection of clips may differ from year to year)

  • The Ghost Goes West (Rene Clair, 1935)

  • Seven Dead in the Cat's Eye (Antonio Margheriti, 1973).

  • Brigadoon (Vincente Minnelli, 1954)

  • Fantomas vs. Scotland Yard (André Hunebelle, 1967)

Class Handouts

Photocopies of articles and reviews will be provided on the day.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.