Introduction: Borderlines: Contemporary Scottish Gothic

Timothy C. Baker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Robert Wise’s 1945 film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Body Snatcher’ features an ahistoric admixture of Scottish signifiers. The opening credits appear over a fixed shot of a reconstructed Edinburgh Castle while the orchestra plays a somewhat ominous version of ‘Loch Lomond’. The camera passes over a singing beggar and drovers in the city’s centre before alighting on the young medical student Donald Fettes (whom the viewer will soon learn hails from J.M. Barrie’s Thrums) feeding part of his lunch to Greyfriars Bobby. Before long, Bobby will be cruelly killed by Boris Karloff as cabman and resurrectionist John Gray, and the body snatching, linked to Burke and Hare, will begin in earnest. While the film is explicitly set in 1831, its references come from closer to Stevenson’s own time: Bobby, according to the famous statue outside Greyfriars Kirk, died in 1872, while the first of Barrie’s Thrums stories was published in 1889. These details seem selected not for historical accuracy, but because they straightforwardly represent ‘Scottishness’ to an international audience.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Scottish Gothic
Subtitle of host publicationMourning, Authenticity, and Tradition
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-45720-2
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-49861-1, 978-1-137-45719-6
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NamePalgrave Gothic
ISSN (Print)2634-6214
ISSN (Electronic)2634-6222

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Timothy C. Baker.


  • Ghost Story
  • Literary History
  • Literary Tradition
  • Open Credit
  • Print Culture


Dive into the research topics of 'Introduction: Borderlines: Contemporary Scottish Gothic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this