Arts & Culture

Outlander author to speak at University of Glasgow conference about hit TV show

By Ian Marland at

The University of Glasgow is to host a major Outlander conference next year.

Academics will examine why the hit US TV series has become such a worldwide phenomenon.

The show has seen a surge in tourism to parts of the Highlands and Glasgow where scenes have been filmed.

Actors dressed in Highland costume

members of The Clanranald Trust for Scotland have appeared in the series.

The global appeal of the historical fantasy has brought millions of pounds into the Scottish economy.

Now academics at the University of Glasgow will come together next summer to look at the history, customs, politics, culture, clothes and music featured in the Outlander TV series.

And the event has been given a seal of approval by the American author of the books upon which the series is based.

Diana Gabaldon has agreed to give a keynote speech at the four-day conference in June 2020.

Meanwhile, a programme of events is being planned that will be open to the general public.

Professor Willy Maley is professor of Renaissance Studies (English Literature) at the University of Glasgow.

He said: “The globally successful Outlander series has triggered more interest in Scotland and its history than any other cultural artefact in recent years.

“Interest continues to grow as Outlander moves into its fifth season.

Fandom

“While hundreds of fan-based gatherings and interest groups around the world promote and encourage Outlander fandom, and thousands of media articles ponder its reach and appeal, there has not yet been an event which takes an academic approach to the series and brings together the multiple areas of expertise involved in its creation.

“The University of Glasgow plans to do just this: hosting a major international Outlander conference in 2020 will offer the chance to debate, discuss and dissect the elements that make up this remarkable phenomenon.”

The Outlander TV series features English nurse Claire Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe) who falls two hundred years through time to the eve of Culloden, where she meets the Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan, recent University of Glasgow honorary graduate).

With Scotland and its history, the main focus, the series has led to a massive influx of tourists wanting to visit locations featured, including a number of sites in the city of Glasgow and the University of Glasgow, which doubled as Harvard in the third series.

Several academics at the University, from a range of disciplines, have been directly involved in the production and have played key roles as researchers, advisors and even cast members.

This has included Celtic and Gaelic Lecturer Gillebride MacMillan who played Gwyllyn the Bard.

Professor Willy Maley

Professor Willy Maley is professor of Renaissance Studies (English Literature)

In Season 1, Gwyllyn (MacMillan) regales TV viewers with traditional Gaelic songs and tales. He also sang a song specially written by Outlander’s music composer Bear McCreary.

Mr MacMillan, who will take part in the University’s Outlander conference, said: “It has been an amazing journey since I was first cast as Gwyllyn the Bard in Outlander.

“It has opened huge opportunities for me, and I just love that through Outlander I have been able to bring new songs and the Gaelic language to a whole new and worldwide audience.

“I am looking forward to the conference next year which will bring all the many disciplines at the University of Glasgow together to look at Outlander from an educational and academic perspective.

“I am also looking forward to welcoming the author of the Outlander book series Diana Gabaldon to the University.”

Also taking part in the event will be charity the Clanranald Trust for Scotland, an educational organisation established in 1995.

“The members of the trust are dedicated to promoting increased awareness of Scottish Culture and Heritage through interactive education and entertainment. Members of the trust have appeared and acted as advisers on Outlander.