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An Introduction to Scottish Literature: The Literature of Edinburgh (20 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

Tuesdays from 24th September 2019 (Code LI319-102) Tuesdays from
24th September 2019 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (20 classes)
LG48, Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Anya Clayworth BA (Hons) PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

This course explores the rich literary heritage of Edinburgh, the first UNESCO City of Literature. We shall examine the work of some of the city's most celebrated local literary talents, as well as the work of writers who have found the city conducive and influential to their creativity. We shall read a wide variety of texts from the 18th Century to present day, and consider the common themes which emerge.

This course is intended to provide an entry point to the credit study of literature at COL. The 20-credit model allows proper time for students to develop understanding and key academic skills and to benefit from formative assessment and feedback.

20 credit courses have two assessments, normally including a 2000 word essay and a second written assignment. Students also have the opportunity to complete two formative assessments. To pass, students must achieve a minimum course mark of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Please disregard assessment information in the “Assessment” section on this website.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment


Content of Course


WEEK 1: Introductory session

WEEKS 2 and 3: RLS: Jekyll and Hyde

WEEK 4: Robert Burns: ‘To a Mouse’, ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’, ‘A man’s a man’.


WEEK 5: Preparation for close reading exercise

WEEK 6: Wilfred Owen: ‘Mental Cases, ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ and Siegfried Sassoon: ‘Base Details’ and ‘Survivors’.

WEEKS 7 and 8: Kate Atkinson: Case Histories

WEEKS 9 and 10: Sue Glover: Bondagers

Term 2


WEEKS 1 and 2: Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

WEEKS 3 and 4: Examination of key 20thC Scottish writers, especially poets (such as Norman MacCaig, Sorely Maclean) who shaped and influenced the literary scene in Edinburgh and beyond.


WEEK 5: Preparation for close reading exercise

WEEKS 6 and 7: Gregory Burke: Black Watch

WEEKS 8 and 9: Irvine Welsh: Trainspotting

WEEK 10: Course roundup and essay preparation workshop

From the outset, we shall examine both literary texts and other materials such as journalism and correspondence, locating the authors within the city's cultural and historical context. Discussion of the work of Robert Louis Stevenson will expose one of the key themes of the course, that of 'duality'. Students will be asked to continue to consider the theme of duality and also that of frailty as we consider the writings of short-term residents of Edinburgh: Robert Burns, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Students will be asked to consider the enduring appeal of their poems, and the social and political critiques they present.

Muriel Spark's classic exploration of the duality of Edinburgh, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, will be examined in detail, looking at Spark's heritage in the city, as well as exploring how the novel invites discussion about the Scottish psyche.

Students will be asked to examine Edinburgh as a backdrop to detective fiction through modern texts such as Kate Atkinson's Case Histories, and consider how urban poverty and crime is portrayed in Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. We shall compare and contrast Welsh and Burns' use of language, paying careful attention to the link between identity and language. 

We shall read a selection of poetry from 20th and 21st Century poets who have helped shape the literary scene in Edinburgh and beyond, and consider the contribution the Scottish Poetry Library has made to Edinburgh's cultural landscape. Students will be encouraged to apply close-reading skills and will be given support and advice on using poetic terms where appropriate.

Students will be asked to read and watch examples of Scottish stage plays such as Sue Glover's play Bondagers which explores rural life for woman in the mid-nineteenth century, and Gregory Burke's play Black Watch which dramatises the lives of soldiers from the Black Watch regiment in the 2004 Iraq conflict. The importance of theatre and the Edinburgh Festivals to the city will be considered as we review the contemporary responses by audiences and critics to the plays.

Teaching method(s)

Mid-way through each term, students will be introduced to close-reading exercises, during which they will be offered guidance on literary terminology and devices. Throughout the course, both in formative and summative assessment and also in group discussion, students will be encouraged to identify literary devices and refer to them using recognised literary terminology, so as to develop an academic vocabulary.

The course will be taught in a small seminar setting, where participation will be supported and encouraged. The course comprises 20 two-hour classes plus approx.

Learning outcomes

  1. Evaluate, compare and contrast a wide range of texts, demonstrating knowledge of Edinburgh's linguistic, literary, cultural and socio-political contexts;
  2. Analyse literary texts by applying close reading techniques and referring to recognised literary terminology to illustrate arguments;
  3. Construct, present and evaluate arguments coherently by assessing, analysing and responding to secondary reading;
  4. Analyse contemporary responses and reactions to texts by evaluating and assessing ideas from non-literary texts such as letters, criticism or journalism;


Core Readings


Stevenson, Robert Louis., 2008. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales. Oxford: Oxford World Classics.
Atkinson, Kate., 2011. Case Histories. London: Black Swan.
Glover, Sue. 2005. Bondagers and The Straw Chair. London: Methuen.
Spark, Muriel., 2000. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Burke, Gregory., 2007. Black Watch. London: Faber.
Welsh, Irvine., 2013. Trainspotting. London: Vintage.
Poetry to be provided as pdf handouts.

Mullan, John, 2008. How Novels Work OUP, Oxford.
Wallace, Gavin and Stevenson, Randall, eds., 1993. The Scottish Novel Since the 1970s. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Stevenson, Robert Louis (2003) Stevenson's Scotland Edinburgh, Mercat Press.
Skoblow, Jeffrey, 2001 Dooble Tongue: Scots, Burns, Contradiction. Newark: University of Delaware Press.
Roberts, David, 1996. Minds at War: The Poetry and Experience of the First World War. Burgess Hill: Saxon Books.
Stephen, Martin, 1996. The Price of Pity: Poetry, History and Myth in the Great War. London: Leo Cooper.
Barker, Pat, 2008. Regeneration. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Priestman, Martin ed. 2003 The Cambridge Companion to Detective Fiction. CUP, Cambridge.
Scaggs, John. 2005 Crime Fiction. Routledge, London.
Rennison, N., 2005. Contemporary British novelists. London: Routledge.
Brown, I., 2011. The Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Drama, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Gardiner, Michael and Maley, Willy. eds., 2010. The Edinburgh Companion to Muriel Spark. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
McGuire, M. & Nicholson, C., 2009. The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Scottish Poetry, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Robinson, R., 2012. The National Theatre of Scotland's Black Watch. Contemporary Theatre Review, 22(3), pp. 392¿399.
Morace, Robert, 2001. Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting: A Reader's Guide. London: Continuum.



10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


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.