In James Robertson's 2006 novel, the protagonist, Gideon Mack, a minister of the Scottish Kirk in the north-east town of Monimaskit, is torn by an inner irreconcilable conflict between faith and doubt. One day, he is found dead on a mountain, and his memoir, the “testament” of the title – about his growing up in a repressive family, his tyrannical father, the tragic death of his wife, his meeting with the Devil in an underground cave, and the Kirk ostracising him – ends up in the hands of a journalist, Harry Caithness, who takes it to a publisher Patrick Walker. What constitutes the main bulk of the novel – Mack’s autobiography – is sandwiched between a prologue (Walker’s and Caithness’s conversations) and an epilogue (their reflections about the meanings of the manuscript, as well as the journalist's reported witnesses of the Monimaskit townsfolk). The tripartite structure of the novel, as well as the unresolved inconsistencies contained in Mack’s manuscript, with its various hermeneutic possibilities between the real and the surreal, religious fanaticism and psychosis, leave no doubt as to the main literary model behind Robertson’s novel. Although the reader is reminded of countless tales of duality and supernatural encounters from the traditional ballads to Doctor Jeykll and Mr Hyde, there is no denying the fact that James Hogg's Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is the most haunting intertextual legacy. The aim of the essay will be to show how Robertson comes to terms with this unquestionable legacy, presenting a story of the supernatural and/or of psychic disintegration which is strongly rooted in the Scottish folklore and religious tradition of a precise rural area of Scotland – not least in its landscape, woods, rivers ... Which is why the epilogue, in which the journalist reports the Monimaskit community’s unreliable witnesses about their minister, despite their general inconclusiveness, poses the central open questions of this sui-generis Gothic novel: what remains of irrational religious faith in our sceptical age? How do folklore, legend and religion interlace in some Scottish small towns and villages, where the fantastic still seems to rub shoulders with the everyday? As in other novels, Robertson once again asks his reader to suspend absolute judgements and accept the unfathomable mysteries and conundrums of human history, religion and culture.

"All those ancient stories that had their dark souls located in woods": Rural Gothic, Scottish Folklore and Postmodern Conundrums in James Robertson’s "The Testament of Gideon Mack" / Angeletti, Gioia. - STAMPA. - (2018), pp. 81-98.

"All those ancient stories that had their dark souls located in woods": Rural Gothic, Scottish Folklore and Postmodern Conundrums in James Robertson’s "The Testament of Gideon Mack"

ANGELETTI, Gioia
2018

Abstract

In James Robertson's 2006 novel, the protagonist, Gideon Mack, a minister of the Scottish Kirk in the north-east town of Monimaskit, is torn by an inner irreconcilable conflict between faith and doubt. One day, he is found dead on a mountain, and his memoir, the “testament” of the title – about his growing up in a repressive family, his tyrannical father, the tragic death of his wife, his meeting with the Devil in an underground cave, and the Kirk ostracising him – ends up in the hands of a journalist, Harry Caithness, who takes it to a publisher Patrick Walker. What constitutes the main bulk of the novel – Mack’s autobiography – is sandwiched between a prologue (Walker’s and Caithness’s conversations) and an epilogue (their reflections about the meanings of the manuscript, as well as the journalist's reported witnesses of the Monimaskit townsfolk). The tripartite structure of the novel, as well as the unresolved inconsistencies contained in Mack’s manuscript, with its various hermeneutic possibilities between the real and the surreal, religious fanaticism and psychosis, leave no doubt as to the main literary model behind Robertson’s novel. Although the reader is reminded of countless tales of duality and supernatural encounters from the traditional ballads to Doctor Jeykll and Mr Hyde, there is no denying the fact that James Hogg's Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is the most haunting intertextual legacy. The aim of the essay will be to show how Robertson comes to terms with this unquestionable legacy, presenting a story of the supernatural and/or of psychic disintegration which is strongly rooted in the Scottish folklore and religious tradition of a precise rural area of Scotland – not least in its landscape, woods, rivers ... Which is why the epilogue, in which the journalist reports the Monimaskit community’s unreliable witnesses about their minister, despite their general inconclusiveness, poses the central open questions of this sui-generis Gothic novel: what remains of irrational religious faith in our sceptical age? How do folklore, legend and religion interlace in some Scottish small towns and villages, where the fantastic still seems to rub shoulders with the everyday? As in other novels, Robertson once again asks his reader to suspend absolute judgements and accept the unfathomable mysteries and conundrums of human history, religion and culture.
9781786832337
"All those ancient stories that had their dark souls located in woods": Rural Gothic, Scottish Folklore and Postmodern Conundrums in James Robertson’s "The Testament of Gideon Mack" / Angeletti, Gioia. - STAMPA. - (2018), pp. 81-98.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11381/2826259
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