Ingibjörg Ágústsdóttir

Deadly Chauvinism? Arctic (Ad)Ventures in Scottish Literature

In her New Yorker article on “Literature’s Arctic Obsession” and nineteenth century Polar travel and exploration, American journalist Kathryn Schulz states that “In the Arctic, English chauvinism led to the death of untold numbers of Englishmen” – as opposed to other places across the British Empire, where it led to the death of countless native people.[1] Assuming that by “English”, Schulz is actually referring to Brits – including Scots – who travelled to the Arctic, this paper explores if and how such chauvinism (both in terms of nationality and gender) is reflected in Scottish literature that engages with Arctic travel, especially in the context of whaling, exploration and encounters with Arctic peoples. In addition, it considers ways in which British chauvinism (including ideas concerning the “manliness” of Arctic exploration) is challenged or subverted, in particular through rewritings of Scotland’s Arctic ventures in contemporary literature. To this end, texts such as James Hogg’s “The Surpassing Adventures of Allan Gordon” (1818), Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Captain of the Pole Star” (1883) and Stef Penney’s Under a Pole Star (2016) will be examined.

Ingibjörg Ágústsdóttir, University of Iceland, Iceland

[1] Kathryn Schulz, “Literature’s Arctic Obsession: The greatest writers of the nineteenth century were drawn to the North Pole. What did they hope to find there?” The New Yorker 17 April 2017. Web. Accessed 2 July 2019.