Distinguishing Features of Iain Crichton Smith’s Gaelic Writing

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This article takes the opportunity to tackle some crucial questions in relation to Iain Crichton Smith as a Gaelic writer that will have far-reaching implications for our ongoing understanding of contemporary Gaelic literature in general. It addresses the question of how his writing in Gaelic differs from his writing in English and begins the task of analysing what that means for Gaelic as a literary and cultural medium. In doing this, the chapter has a relationship with my 2016 paper 'The Gaelic Writer, Iain Crichton Smith ...' However, the current article moves away from considerations of Smith's identity as a writer and looks in more detail at features of the writing itself. Where differences are identified, the chapter discusses what this might signify. We consider here whether it is possible to discern any sense of unity or coherence in Smith's Gaelic writing that could be contrasted, in further research, with equivalents in his English writing. We also consider the range and styles of writing he employed in Gaelic over the decades of his career, which will help us to reach some conclusions about the depth and reach of his impact as a Gaelic writer. This is important at this point, because the Gaelic literary canon is currently undergoing a major paradigm shift in all sorts of ways, and it behoves us to take stock of the situation and assess what we mean when we talk about Gaelic writing. Smith is particularly interesting from this point of view, precisely because he has not always been unproblematically reckoned a Gaelic writer and he, thus, serves as a mirror we can hold up to the rest of Gaelic literature when we ask questions about its distinctiveness and vibrancy (Watson 2016).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalScottish Language
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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