Scottish Studies Zoom Talk

John Buchan's Supernatural Fiction

an online talk by Paul Grant Ph.D

Saturday, October 28, 2023
10 a.m. EDT (Eastern Canada/USA)
3 p.m. UK

This event has taken place

We invite you to attend the next in our 2023 series of online Zoom Talks when Professor Paul Grant will examine the supernatural short stories of Scottish author and past Governor General of Canada, John Buchan.

Buchan, who is known principally for a series of espionage thrillers—most famously,TheThirty-Nine Steps—is also the author of a large number of stories that deal with supernatural themes. Given his wide-ranging interests, this should come as no surprise: he experimented with many genres during his career and his fascination with the supernatural is an example of his eclecticism. Nevertheless, his work in this field has only recently begun to receive the attention it deserves. Buchan wrote around twenty supernatural tales from the 1890s to the 1930s, but because they appeared over many years and in various publications, they are generally not seen as a body of work.

In Paul's talk, he will address this situation and assess Buchan's contribution to this genre. In doing so, a number of questions arise. How do Buchan's stories of the supernatural compare to those written by his famous Scottish forebears, such as Scott, Hogg, Stevenson? Did Buchan bring anything new to the genre, or are his tales based on tried and tested scenarios? Does he have particular strengths which distinguish his stories? Finally, we might ask why a man who seemed to embody scientific rationalism was so persistently drawn to the uncanny. (Click here to listen to Paul narrate Skule Skerry, one of Buchan's short stories.)

Paul Grant is an Associate Professor of English at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. He has degrees from the University of Glasgow, where he received the A.C. Bradley Medal for the Most Distinguished Graduate in English, and Cambridge University, where he was awarded a Ph.D. for his dissertation on the humour of Russian author Vladimir Nabokov. Paul's main research area is Humour Studies, and next year will see the publication of his labour of love, Mind and Matter: The Humour of Vladimir Nabokov, by Edinburgh University Press. But he also has an abiding interest in supernatural literature and has published some academic articles in this field, as well as creative work (one of his poems was longlisted in The Best Horror of the Year anthology for 2021).

To register for this event, kindly contact David Hunter by email at You will then be sent the appropriate Zoom login information. Please register no later than Friday, October 27. This is a free event, but you are welcome to make a donation to our Scholarship Campaign.

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The Scottish Studies Foundation is a Canadian charitable organization (No.119253490 RR0001). For Canadian residents, a tax receipt will be issued for donations in excess of $10.