‘East is West and West is East’: Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Quest for Ultimate Cosmopolitanism

Scott Lyall

in Scottish Literature and Postcolonial Literature

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748637744
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652143 | DOI:
‘East is West and West is East’: Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Quest for Ultimate Cosmopolitanism

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This chapter addresses Lewis Grassic Gibbon's quest to shatter the colonial conception of East and West and return to an age of cosmopolitanism. His idealistic model of a cosmopolitan future is deeply informed by his reading of the past as adapted from diffusionism. The narrator of Gibbon's Egyptian work is a White Russian in exile from the Bolshevik Revolution. ‘Revolt’ concludes with ibn Saud's refusal of the stereotype of violent native. Finding Clare Caldon's lost and vulnerable young daughter in the bazaar, with whom he shares a feeling of instinctual affiliation, and being told of Hassan's death, he calls off the nationalist revolt. Gibbon's cosmopolitanism, the national ‘synthesis’ envisioned at the end of The Lost Trumpet, is utopian, but it is also a necessary quest to escape provincialism and imagine a new anti-imperial universalism that is ultimately postcolonial.

Keywords: Lewis Grassic Gibbon; quest; cosmopolitanism; East; West; diffusionism; Bolshevik Revolution; Revolt; anti-imperial universalism

Chapter.  5384 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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