It occurred to me recently that I have been unduly silent for a very long time in the pages of this blog as to my whereabouts and goings-on. That is mainly because I have been busy both in working on my dissertation and in studiously doing nothing. As proof of this, I am posting a copy of my most recent dissertation outline below. It is relatively uninteresting, and I would suggest that you skim or skip it if you are not widely interested in the topic of the intentional composition of mythology, tradition, and classical epic. Even if you are interested in such things, the outline may be a bore. I provide it only to show that I am doing something significant while I neglect the lot of you - though I doubt it will be much consolation. I apologize if the format of the post is a bit funky. The process of cutting and pasting this thing has proved more difficult than a simple series of right-clicks.


Macpherson’s Ossianic narratives were composed in the midst of changing definitions of poetic genres and shifting standards of literary values. As a result, they both represent these changes and influence them. I will be exploring the specific influences of the literary studies of Blackwell and Lowth upon Macpherson’s writing, and the influence Macpherson had upon Blair’s literary theories. My arguments will be specifically focused on the definitions of the poet, the bard, the epic, and mythology in the context of the studies of human and societal development in the eighteenth century. Ultimately, I wish to show that the confusion as to the genre of these poems has caused them to be generally disregarded in critical conversation. [Assuming that they are not being ignored simply because they are boring.]



Macpherson’s inspiration

the resulting confusion of genre

why establishing genre is important for critical consideration; why it is unimportant for the ultimate purposes of literature (that is, the confusion led to Ossian being forgotten, but it did not hinder the popularity of the poems among a wide international audience for many years)


the need for an epic:

Scottish nationalism

the preservation of Gaelic tradition

Macpherson’s own literary aims

the standards of the epic:

Primary or Oral Epic

Blackwell’s vision of Homer and how it influence Ossian

Secondary or Literary Epic

Virgil, Milton, and canonical considerations


Gaelic tradition:


the role of the bard in ancient society

how the ballads lasted for so long

the history of preserving them

how Macpherson’s Ossian participated in this preservation

eighteenth-century literary fashion

ballads in writing

the sentimental ‘bard’

how Ossian embodies this fashion


local mythology

Gaelic traditions and superstitions (fairies and Druids and the second sight)

how Macpherson avoids this and why

heroic mythology

superheroes and gods

how Macpherson got one and got rid of the other

religious mythology

why Ossian would have benefited from familiarity with the Supreme Being, and how Macpherson decided against introducing them anyway

why Macpherson chose to write like King Solomon, and what Dr Lowth has to say about it all




  1. Conclusion:
    you suck if you don't like myth. Go eat a shoe.

  2. I think you need to talk more about the "bard" in your paper. "Bard" is fun to say.

  3. I agree with you both. Shoes for punishment and bards for joy! bardbardbard.


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