O. Douglas and the aesthetics of the Ordinary

Juliet Shields*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The novels of O. Douglas [Anna Buchan] have been overlooked by scholars of Scottish women's writing in part because of their apparent artlessness and simplicity. Yet their seeming artlessness represents a purposeful artistic choice. This essay contends that Douglas's novels develop an aesthetics of the ordinary by asserting the ethical value of mundane forms of beauty - a verdant garden, a becoming hat, a nicely laid table, or an apt metaphor. Douglas's aesthetic philosophy has religious and economic implications. Novels including Penny Plain (1920), Pink Sugar (1924), and The Proper Place (1926) challenge Free Church ambivalence towards the indulgence of aesthetic pleasure by representing everyday beauty as a source of happiness and moral amelioration. Douglas suggests that it is the responsibility of Scotland's affluent upper middle class to bring small beauties into the lives of the less fortunate, and to teach the lower middle class how to appreciate the pleasures such ordinary beauty affords. By offering their readers instances of everyday beauty, Douglas's novels participated in this educative process, helping to shape a formative middle-class Scottish identity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-131
Number of pages19
JournalScottish Literary Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes

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