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The Voice of the People

Hamish Henderson and Scottish Cultural Politics

Corey Gibson

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Examining Hamish Henderson’s search for the radical voice of the people in modern Scotland.

How might the alienation of the artist in modern Scotland be overcome? How do you incite a popular folk revival? Can a poet truly speak with the ‘voice of the people’? And what happens to the writer who rejects print culture in favour of becoming Anon.? The life and times of polymath, scholar, author and folk-hero, Hamish Henderson (1919-2002), poses, and helps us to answer, these questions. This book examines his life-long commitment to finding a form of artistic expression suitable for post-war Europe. Though Henderson is a major figure in Scottish cultural history, his reputation is largely maintained through anecdotes and radical folk songs. This study explores his ideas in their intellectual, cultural and political contexts. It describes how all of his works – in war poetry, song collection, folklore scholarship, folksong revivalism, literary translation, and vicious public debates – reflect this desire to see the artist fully reintegrated in society.

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List of Abbreviations
Chapter One: The Flytings, Chapter Two: War Poetry and Soldiers’ Songs
Chapter Three: Gramsci’s Folklore
Chapter Four: Poetry and the People
Chapter Five: The Revivalist and the Folklorist

About the Author

Corey Gibson is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. Originally from Dumfries and Galloway, he was awarded his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 2012. His work on Hamish Henderson earned him the Ross Roy Medal for excellence in Scottish Literary Research. And in 2013, he was the US-UK Fulbright Commission Scottish Studies Scholar, at the University of California, Berkeley.


'Gibson's intention is admirable and the outcome is impressive. This is the most scholarly comprehensive assessment of Henderson's work as a poet, songwriter, cultural agent, protector and provocateur.'
- Alan Riach, Scottish Literary Review

'In this acute, sympathetic, trenchant book, Henderson emerges as both a crucial figure in Scottish cultural politics and an internationally resonant intellectual. Modernist poet, folk revivalist, cultural collector, polemicist, impresario, thinker, comrade: Henderson contained multitudes. Gibson brilliantly tracks his multiple commitments and makes a strong case for him as a theorist and not only a collector of 'culture'. Henderson and his work have long been due a rich and full appraisal: here it is.'

- Maureen N. McLane, New York University