Purdue University Graduate School

Ossianic Medievalisms

Reason: Chapter 5 is forthcoming in the journal Studies in Medievalism, and I plan to publish the dissertation as a monograph.

Ossianic Medievalisms: Dialogic Nation-Building and a Tradition of Invention in the Internal British Empire, 1760-1921

posted on 2022-05-20, 17:20 authored by Vanessa K IacoccaVanessa K Iacocca


This dissertation explicates what I call “Ossianic medievalisms,” or deliberately reinvented medieval pasts attached to national identity formation that were precipitated by Scottish author James Macpherson’s Ossian Poems (1760-1765). Though Macpherson claimed to provide translations of third-century Highland epics, he largely reimagined bardic materials himself, catalyzing a lasting literary trend. Exploring the tensions and interrelations bred by internal colonialism within the British Isles, I argue that English, Scottish, and Irish writers of “Ossianic medievalisms,” such as Sir Walter Scott, Felicia Hemans, Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan), and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, adapted one another’s rhetoric across national and political lines to offer essentialist visions of culture, race, and nation between Macpherson’s first Ossian poems in 1760 and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921. By analyzing both the transnational and intranational exchange of such writers, I undermine the idea that a singular process of nationalism developed in each nation during this time and show that even competing nation-building efforts were co-constructed.


Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Shaun F. D. Hughes

Additional Committee Member 2

Dino Felluga

Additional Committee Member 3

Manushag Powell

Additional Committee Member 4

Matthew L. Reznicek

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