The Question Of Tradition By Eleanor Bell Essay

The Question Of Tradition By Eleanor Bell Essay

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In the chapter ‘The Question of Tradition’ taken from the book Scotland in Theory: Reflections on Culture and Literature, Eleanor Bell argues that Scottish studies are hesitant to consider the issues of post-modernism and post-nationalism. The question Bell wishes to consider, is why? In consideration of this question, Bell suggests that Scottish studies has become too preoccupied with approaches of tradition and canon building to consider new theoretical applications available, such as post-modernism. This for Bell creates stagnation, and she delineates that this is due to a certain fear that such applications might breakdown the cultural framework that they have tried to preserve and maintain.

From the outset of the passage, Bell sets her intentions clearly, she wishes to analyse the relationship between post-modernism and post-nationalism from a Scottish perspective. In addition to this, she is interested in how the break down of the national offers new perspective on questions relating to tradition and Scotland. Bell begins her argument with an example of the approaches of Irish literary studies. Here, she delineates that despite the contention towards approaches of post-nationalism and post-modernism in an Irish context. There has still been an engagement with, and consideration of the possible effects of globalisation on national identity. In contrast, Bell concludes that Scottish studies have yet to explore such approaches, thus disallowing for an expansion beyond tradition-based applications. In her consideration of the breakdown of the national, Bell makes use of a lengthy quote from Michael Billig’s 1995 study, Banal Nationalism , which discusses the dissolution of nation and nation states. Billig describes how this ch...


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...reates a western world that is led by the Americanisation of everyday life. To respond, here Bell is revealing the dangers of globalisation, and that these effects will eventually threaten the attachment to national history, prevalent in Scottish studies. According to bell, this shift will also impinge on the political landscape. If we consider for example recent events in Scottish history, such as the Scottish referendum in 2014, evidently, this relies heavily on this sense of the collective “we”. Ultimately, Bell suggests that Scottish studies are not willing to consider reality. If for example there were an engagement with issues of post-modernism and post-nationalism, tradition itself would be at threat. This hesitancy to move beyond traditional application is revealing, for it highlights Scotland’s concern with the past, which essentially threatens its future.

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