When James Macpherson published his Fragments of Ancient Poetry in 1760, he went to great lengths to make the Fragments appear to be authentic remains of an ancient, heroic oral tradition. His reasons for this were largely political, and as such, influenced the content of the epics themselves. As an attempt to establish a particularly Scottish identity, the poems were quite effective. However, to do so required both a simplification and a manipulation of traditional mythology. Stripped of anagogical significance, the Ossian epics more or less represented an Enlightenment version of history, tradition, and mythic heritage. The stories themselves were changed by their very purpose and in turn changed the manner of representing myth in future narratives.
Moreover, the emphasis on the Ossian epics as authentic tales from the past, as ‘fragments,’ served to distinguish form from content in a new way. The epics were not so important as stories as they were as artefacts. In the same way that the
note: one thing I left out: I am focusing on the responses located in Edinburgh and London. and I'm presently unsure to what extent I will involve contemporary literary theory.