Plenary Speakers

Diana Gabaldon

Photo courtesy of Nancy Castaldo

  • Time: 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30)
  • Date: Wednesday 6th July
  • Place: University of Wyoming Union Ballroom
  • Note: This event is free and open to the public.

Ever since Claire Randall stepped between the standing stones and into eighteenth-century Scotland, Diana Gabaldon has been one of the most popular authors of Scottish historical fiction. Gabaldon’s writing escapes the classifications of place, time, and genre. After her debut in Outlander (1991; Cross Stitch in the UK), Gabaldon’s heroine has taken the route of Scottish diaspora through France, the West Indies, and America, and Gabaldon’s novels have moved from romance through science fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy, and onto the classics shelf. This is all the more remarkable for Gabaldon’s education is in Zoology, Marine Biology, and Ecology (Ph.D.) - she was a university research professor for 12 years, and has written scientific journal articles, popular science articles, software reviews, and text books. In addition, she’s written introductions to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, for Random House’s recent editions of these works. Gabaldon’s introduction to Ivanhoe shows her as a canny reader, as well as a thoughtful writer, of historical fiction - a fascinating literary descendant of Sir Walter. Not surprisingly, her fiction has earned her a wide range of awards: a RITA from the Romance Writers of America; the International Corinne Book Award based on public choice; a Quill for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, also by public vote. Reviewers call her work: “historical fiction with a Moebius twist,” and dubs hers “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting Scrooge McDuck comic books.” Gabaldon, like Scott, has a sense of humor.

Jenni Calder

Sir Walter Goes West:
Scott's Frontier Legacy
  • Time: 7 p.m.
  • Date: Tuesday 5th July
  • Place: University of Wyoming Art Museum

In writing about the Scottish Highlands, Walter Scott took his readers on journeys into frontier country where they encountered fiercely proud natives who passionately defended a way of life that was under threat. The paradigm was readily translated to the American West. In my talk I plan to explore the way Scott offered a narrative of life and landscape that fitted frontier experience in the US and influenced a heroic interpretation of discovery and settlement alongside the loss of the very features that bred its mythic possibilities.

Jenni Calder was Head of Publications for the National Museum of Scotland, and is currently President of Scottish PEN. Listing herself as a “Poet, writer,” for the Scottish Book Trust, she can be more fully appreciated as the author of: There Has to be a Lone Ranger: The Myth and Reality of the American Wild West; Scots in the USA; Robert Louis Stevenson: A Life Study; The Enterprising Scot (ed.); Chronicles of Conscience; the poem cycle Smoke, considering the Holocaust; and the autobiography Not Nebuchadnezzar, which treats her complex identities as the Scottish, American, and Jewish child of a famous family.

Judith Wilt

Piratical Paradigms:
Scott's Pirates and Successors
  • Time: 10:15 a.m.
  • Date: Saturday 9th July
  • Place: University of Wyoming College of Business Auditorium
  • Note: This event is closed to the public.

One man’s merchant is another man’s pirate. Originally the Romans’ “enemy of all,” the Pirate is a protean or rover-figure, who challenges the idea of the “civil.” The hero of Scott’s The Pirate (1822) was “made” in the Caribbean and travels the sea margins in his pirate father’s wake. He lurks at Ultima Thule, between islands never quite pacified by Britain or even Scotland. Scott’s pirate sets the pattern played out across Stevenson’s Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins, and J.M. Barrie’s Captain Hook versus Peter Pan; in more complex ways, he leads to Lord Jim’s “Gentleman Brown.” The Pirate, indeed, offers glimpses of sublime paradigms about the sea and the land that point to the new field of “ocean studies” and the terraqueous globe. Walter Scott seems Sheriff and Outlaw at land and sea, in past and present.

Judith Wilt is the Newton College Alumnae Chair of Western Culture at Boston College. Her 1986 book, Secret Leaves: The Novels of Walter Scott, changed the modes and ideas of Scott studies. Wilt’s more recent work has focused on modern culture and its issues - for instance, the nuanced Abortion, Choice, and Contemporary Fiction. Not one to shy away from controversy, Wilt now returns to Scott studies.

Christopher Harvie

Inlaws and Outlaws
  • Time: 8 p.m.
  • Date: Thursday 7th July
  • Place: Hilton Gardens Ballroom
  • Note: This event is closed to the public. Conferees should purchase a banquet ticket.

MSP Christopher Harvie provides an aperitif for our banquet with a short talk about the Family and the Law in Scotland in the period of the Waverley novels–from the late middle ages to the Royal Jaunt. If nations define themselves on their frontier, he askes, where do you place the “debatable land”? Lots of Scott’s stories writings—A Legend of Montrose, The Black Dwarf, the introduction to the Chronicles of the Canongate—are about the dysfunction of both. They imply that the Law’s “Parliament House” (like the King and bankrupt’s “Croft an Righ”) was a sort of refuge from the intensely political “authoritarian family” of Scottish civil society. Many a douce Scots bourgeois had, like Bailie Nicol Jarvie, a cateran cousin.

Christopher Harvie comes to us from Motherwell via Edinburgh University—where he studied History—Tübingen, and the Scottish Parliament. He is an expert on “academic liberalism in Victorian Britain,” has taught at the Open University, and served as Professor of British Studies and directed the British regional studies element of the International Economics faculty at Tübingen. He is Honorary Professor of Politics at Aberystwyth, and of History at Strathclyde. His publications include Fool’s Gold: the Story of North Sea Oil (1994), Deep-Fried Hillman Imp: Scotland’s Transport (2001), Floating Commonwealth: Politics, Technology and Culture on Britain’s Atlantic Coast, 1860-1930 (2008), Broonland: the Last Days of Gordon Brown (2010), and Scotland the Brief: a Short History of a Nation (2010).

In 1988 he left the Labour Party for the SNP and Plaid Cymru. He stood for the SNP in the 2007 Holyrood elections, and was returned as List Member for Mid Scotland and Fife. He was an MSP until parliamentary dissolution on 22 March 2011, and served as a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee and as Parliamentary Liaison Officer to the First Minister.