Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Barr, Rebecca Anne; Tonra, Justin
Macpherson's Ossian Legacy Conference
"Ossian Online: A Digital Resource for Macpherson’s Ossian"
Kingussie, Scotland.
Conference Paper
Optional Fields
The publication of Macpherson’s 1765 Works of Ossian is a significant moment in the cultural life of the eighteenth century. However, as Howard Gaskill testifies, it is the text of the 1773 Poems of Ossian that has “been bequeathed to us in edition after edition ever since” (xxiv). Whatever our judgment of the merits and demerits of the respective editions, Gaskill’s point suggests that a broad consideration of the publication history of Macpherson’s publications is essential for a comprehensive understanding of Ossian’s textual legacy.   While Macpherson claims his 1773 revisions “brought the work to a state of correctness, which will preclude all future improvements” (1:v), his twentieth-century editor Gaskill laments the “authorial vanity which is really behind so many of these revisions” (xxiv). In textual terms, then, the choice between the 1765 and 1773 editions equates to a debate between the legacy of ‘Ossian’ or the legacy of Macpherson, mirroring the central terms of the debate about the cultural authenticity of the work.   Since the seminal Edinburgh University edition, the 1765 Works has become the de facto copy-text for modern readers of Ossian. This paper will examine the case for preserving and presenting multiple versions of the Ossian texts, arguing that a “versioned” (Reiman) approach enables a fuller appreciation of the many crucial elements--authority, originality, authenticity--which have fuelled interest in Ossian since its initial publication. We will showcase the work of Ossian Online: a new resource that allows users to view and compare multiple Ossian editions (1760-73) as a means of unearthing the plural textual shifts and the multiple legacies of this important work. Developing a new tool for collaborative online annotation, as well as allowing readers to locate and visualise textual and paratextual changes, Ossian Online will provoke us to reconsider the work’s legacies and to engage in new debate around Macpherson’s astonishing work.
NUI Galway
Publication Themes