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Reviewed by: Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University
Studies in Scottish Literature (SSL) was begun as a print publication in 1963 by its then editor, G. Ross Roy (1924-2013). Professor Roy was the editor of the journal for almost 50 years, for volumes 1 through 36. He then donated the rights to the journal in 2012 to the University of South Carolina Libraries. SSL is now published by the University of South Carolina in a new series, as an annual volume. It is available in three formats: the free, online version (all 39 volumes thus far produced are available online for free), as a print-on-demand paperback (beginning with volume 37), and as a casebound volume (within the U.S. only; this format is intended for library subscriptions). SSL continues to seek contributions about all genres and periods of Scottish literature, as well as submissions exploring interrelations between Scottish literature and other literatures and between literary approaches and research from other disciplinary perspectives.
Studies in Scottish Literature was founded “to create a common meeting ground for work embracing all aspects of the great Scottish literary heritage… welcom[ing] all shades of opinion . . . [and] carry[ing] articles on contemporary authors." In addition to regular articles, each volume now includes a section of articles on a special theme. This practice began in volume 38 with articles on current trends and opportunities in Scottish literary studies.
Each issue usually contains Front matter (a preface, notes, and / or tributes), a Symposium (writings around a theme), Articles, Notes/Documents, Book Reviews and Books Received, and a list of Contributors. The Front matter in recent issues has included tributes to the former long-time editor, G. Ross Roy and prefaces introducing the new series. Recent Symposia are arranged around the themes Editing Scottish Literary Texts, the Present and Future for Scottish Literature (including Digital Scotland), and Robert Burns and Friends, with such articles as, “Textual Messages: Scholarly Editions and Their Role in Literary Criticism” and “Setting a Stoot Hert Tae a Stey Brae: Fifty Years of the Study of Scottish Literature, 1962-2012.” Regular articles in recent issues include, “Deficiencies: Mental Disability and the Imagination in Scott's Waverley Novels,” “On Vernacular Scottishness and its Limits: Devolution and the Spectacle of "Voice",” “The Printed Record of an Oral Tradition: Anna Gordon Brown’s Ballads,” and “"O My Luve's Like a Red, Red Rose": Does Burns's Melody Really Matter.” Notes/Documents include such items as, “The Missing Manuscript of Robert Burns's "Patriarch" Letter,” “Sir Walter Scott and John Clare: An Unpublished Letter,” and “Robert Burns, James Johnson, and the Manuscript of "The German Lairdie."” Only one book review has appeared in the last five issues, for Court Poetry in Late Medieval England and Scotland, by Anthony Hasler. The list of books received appears in some issues, and includes publication details and short descriptions of the books listed.
The content here is certainly scholarly, and the contributors, editors, and editorial board are distinguished Scottish literature experts. The execution of the open access, online iteration is not the easiest interface with which I’ve worked; it takes a number of steps just to get to the Table of Contents for each issue, and then several more steps to access the content itself. It’s unfortunate that the designers have “hidden” the volume information for each year in a tiny breadcrumb trail at screen top; it’s very easy to get lost in the contents pages and not know just where you are, but that’s probably a greater problem for a reviewer than for the regular reader. These are minor quibbles given the importance of the material to Scottish literary studies – this is a title every librarian will do well to bring to the attention of scholars in the field.