A connection to Outlander is a sensual experience. For me, at first, it was the tactile pleasure of holding the books in my hands, Diana Gabaldon’s evocative words transporting me to a place I can almost see, smell, and feel. More recently, it’s been watching the wonderful TV series which has delighted my eyes and ears with my imaginings made real. I am hooked by the heart and all five senses.
Touch is of great importance – from the smooth feel of the wooden Sawny toy that Jamie Fraser remembers from childhood and which he re-creates and passes on to his own son, to the exquisite cool feel of the Scottish pearls Claire receives from her husband on their wedding night, to the talismanic scrap of tartan Murtagh cherishes in secret in Ardsmuir prison – the ‘feel’ of time, of place, of memory, is intrinsic to the story. And of course, touch is always at the core of Claire and Jamie’s relationship!
Scent is used evocatively – from the flowers and herbs, Claire gathers for her apothecary, to the visceral result of the violence of the battlefield, to the feelings enhanced by an aroma of a loved ones embrace – each olfactory descriptive links us to our understanding of time and place.
From the haunting melody of the opening theme to “Outlander”, to the extensive use of the Gaelic language, to the way I “hear” the story in my head as I read the novels – my auditory connection to the characters enhances my understanding of them, and attachment to them. Words have the power to resonate deeply, forging a strong empathetic connection within us – a sense of belonging.
There is deep, emotional significance in what I see in the Outlander story – which is highlighted best on screen. The excellence of the cast, of the directors and production designers, of the costumiers and the make-up and hair artists, create layers of magical connectivity drawing me further into the world of the 18th Century.
In both the books and the TV show taste is of huge importance, from the fine wines of Castle Leoch or the Fraser family’s French business to the simple shared dining experience around a campfire or kitchen hearth – eating is an essential activity that helps build the relationships between characters. And thanks to the delights of Theresa Carle-Sanders’ book “The Outlander Kitchen” I can even allow my own taste buds to add another layer of connectivity to Claire and Jamie’s story!
The power of sensory connectivity in the Outlander story for viewers and readers – fans alike – is pivotal to plot and character. In an age when we are increasingly told that we are being distanced from nature and from each other by advances in science and technology, Outlander takes us to a place where connecting, touching, the immediacy of our senses are essential to life and happiness. As we see through Claire’s eyes, what once was past is now thunderously, acutely, present.
Every year I attend Comic Con in London, and every year I perform the same physical ritual. About halfway through the day I sit against the wall of the main concourse for half an hour and people watch. Hundreds of people, of all ages and backgrounds, parade past me – many wearing t-shirts or accessories supporting their favorite character, film or TV show, but the majority are in passionately created cosplay outfits. And every year I marvel again at the power that connectivity has for the fans – a shared, positive, creative connectivity made manifest in their desire to adorn themselves in support for, and celebration of, their passion – to ‘feel’ part of that world. They stop for photos, for jokes or compliments, they interact – it’s a community connected by enthusiasm, dedication, and openness.
This year I’ll be proudly wearing my Craigh Na Dun t-shirt and celebrating my connection to the world of “Outlander”.