From dramatic space to narrative place
George Mackay Brown's time in a red coat
George Mackay Brown's Time in a Red Coat traverses hundreds of years of history and a succession of allegorical and archetypal spaces, as its heroine (Maurya) voyages from medieval China to modern-day Orkney in a quest to 'slay the dragon of war, or at least to reconcile the dragon with the peaceable creatures of the earth". Manuscripts held by Edinburgh University Library (GB 237 Coll-50) reveal that the novel itself marks the terminus of a lengthy journey from drama to fiction, evolving from a play of the same name on which Brown worked from 1979 to 1982. This essay charts its passage from dramatic to narrative time and space, analysing a growing tension between the use of archetypal locations and situations and the increasing deployment of real-world spatio-temporal indicators. As the original play is mapped onto the novel, the provision of fuller geographical and historical detail permits a closer plotting of Maurya's itinerary. At the same time, the allegorical dimension is significantly enriched by authorial discussions of the universal spatial metaphor that each chapter explores, by a greater emphasis on the motif of the dragon of war, and by a persistent emphasis on the theme of female solidarity.
Barnaby, P. (2019)., From dramatic space to narrative place: George Mackay Brown's time in a red coat, in M. Szuba & J. Wolfreys (eds.), The poetics of space and place in Scottish literature, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 49-69.
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