The Scottish Writing Exhibition at the MLA

The Scottish Writing Exhibition, run by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies brings a selection of Scottish titles to the annual Modern Language Association convention in North America. We bring books from a variety of periods and genres, from the Middle Ages to the present day, and include titles from a number of different publishers from around the world. Our aim is to re-introduce Scotland’s unique and vibrant writing culture to North American readers, by encouraging college and university lecturers to see Scottish writers as part of a distinct literary tradition, and to include Scottish authors on their courses and in research projects. We do this through the existence of the exhibition itself, which demonstrates the variety, extent, and continuity of Scottish writing, and also by presenting well-known Scottish authors in the context of their own culture and its influences, which shines a new light on the work itself.

Our exhibition has gone from a very modest showcase of eighty titles, at our first MLA convention in 2004, to a two-booth display of well over two hundred titles. This expansion is a direct result of the positive response from delegates who visit the exhibition and tell us how much this resource is needed and valued. We have received such encouraging and inspiring feedback over the years, and we know that for many delegates, the Scottish Writing Exhibition is a highlight of the MLA convention.

Since 2007, we have handed out gift bags to convention delegates. Each bag has the Scottish Writing logo on one side, along with acknowledgement of any funding support for the exhibition, and a Scottish quote on the other side. Gifts are usually leaflets and flyers which we collect from Scottish literary or educational organisations, and a Scottish literature booklet produced by ASLS. These booklets include short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, as well as essays on Scottish authors by ASLS committee members. They are available for free, from the ASLS website. Our bags have proved to be very popular, and we are always delighted to hear from delegates returning to the exhibition that they have been using their bag throughout the year. You can see the quotes we have chosen for the bags in the sidebar to the left.

At the MLA in December 2006, we realised that there was enough increasing interest in Scottish writing to publish a newsletter during the course of the year. This idea quickly evolved into The Bottle Imp Scottish Studies ezine, a twice-yearly publication launched in May 2007. Each issue of The Bottle Imp offers several feature articles on a particular theme, regular columns on Scots language and Gaelic place-names, a list of new publications and conferences, and a section of book reviews for new fiction, poetry, and non-fiction/academic titles. As of 2014, The Bottle Imp also publishes a supplement edition in February/March, which presents papers given by the Scottish Literature Discussion Group at the most recent MLA convention. The Bottle Imp is free, and you can sign up to be notified when each new issue is online.

We are very proud that the Scottish Writing Exhibition is able to act as a platform for our colleagues in the Scottish literary sector, providing information on Scottish literary projects to the North American reading public. Each year we hand out five hundred gift bags, which include leaflets and brochures about organisations such as the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature, Abbotsford, the Home of Sir Walter Scott, and several degree programs at universities from across Scotland which offer opportunities to students for overseas study. We also offer information on blogs such as the Scots Whay Hae! website, which publishes podcast interviews with Scottish authors and musicians throughout the year.

We always appreciate feedback on the exhibition, so if you'd like to get in touch with questions or comments about the exhibition, or if you'd like to see a catalogue of the books we bring, you can contact the exhibition managers, Gwen Enstam and Duncan Jones, at