Lecturer in music, Dr Jonathan Hicks, has recently had a chapter published in a collection of essays on sound and sense in British Romanticism
Jo's chapter, "The Resounding Fame of Fingal's Cave," is available, along with the rest of the volume, via Cambridge University Press open access: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009277839.007
In 1772 Joseph Banks recorded observations on the Hebridean island of Staffa. His most striking "discovery" was a sea cave resembling a cathedral. Banks claimed the cave was known by the name of the mythical Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill, or Fingal, to use the variant made famous by Macpherson’s Ossian poems. The publication of Banks’s findings prompted a small industry of travel writing that combined lithic observations with minstrelsy and national history.
In 1797 the French geologist Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond published his research on the topic, which suggested that the association with Ossian was the result of a misunderstanding: whereas the Gaelic for Fingal’s Cave would be "an-ua-fine," the actual name was "an-ua-vine," which translated as "melodious cave." Far from settling the matter, Saint-Fond’s intervention only added to the mystique.
This chapter argues that the cave’s fashionable status can be partly attributed to a series of re-soundings, by which printed texts and theatrical performances relayed aspects of on-site accounts to new readers and audiences. Where existing models of Romantic resonance have emphasized a correspondence between sound and thought, the fame of Fingal’s Cave emerges here as the result of almost mindless repetition.