TV hit Outlander to be focus of university conference

By Lucinda Cameron, PA Scotland

A university is to host a major conference on historical time-travel drama Outlander.

The four-day event at the University of Glasgow will examine the history, customs, politics, culture, clothes and music featured in the hit series.

Diana Gabaldon, author of the books on which the series is based, will give a keynote speech at the conference in June 2020.

Outlander follows the adventures of English nurse Claire Randall, played by Caitriona Balfe, who travels back in time from 1940s Scotland to the 18th century, where she meets and falls in love with Highlander Jamie Fraser, played by Sam Heughan.

It has led to an influx of visitors to locations featured in the series, such as Culloden in the Highlands, Doune Castle near Stirling and Blackness Castle near Linlithgow.

Professor Willy Maley, professor of renaissance studies (English literature) at the university, 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.

“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.”

To complement the academic event, the university is working with partners to plan a programme of events that will be open to the general public and will take place over the same four days.

Sam Heughan
The series stars Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser (Jane Barlow/PA)

Several academics at the university have been directly involved in the production of Outlander and have played key roles as researchers, advisers and even cast members.

Celtic and Gaelic lecturer Gillebride MacMillan played Gwyllyn the Bard, regaling viewers with traditional Gaelic songs and tales in season one.

He also sang a song specially written by Outlander’s music composer Bear McCreary.

Mr MacMillan, who will take part in the Outlander conference, said: “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.”