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Title: Classical reception in Sir Walter Scott's Scottish novels : the role of Greece and Rome in the making of historic-national fiction
Author: D'Andrea, Paola
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 5576
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This work explores Sir Walter Scott’s engagement with the classical past as it emerges, in a selection of his so-called Scottish novels, in the form of creative responses to stories and figures from the realms of literature, myth and history of Greece and Rome. It aims to offer a fresh look at an author that experiences a contradictory state of being nowadays. On the one hand, Scott is in fact recognised as one of the great masters of the art of fictional writing, as well as a touchstone for Scottish national identity; yet, on the other one, he seems to be widely forgotten by the general public. However, as this thesis contends, a series of circumstances in the last several years, not least the increasing public focus on, and concern for, the impact of initiatives and demands that have questioned, or renegotiated, the British Union as a political entity, makes the questions that he posits throughout his novels of significant relevance. Building upon recent work that views the novelist against the background of the classical tradition, this study intends to uncover the destabilising role that Graeco-Roman elements play in eight of the Waverley novels, from the theoretical basis of reader response criticism. The following five chapters discuss the relevance, and extent to which, Scott makes use of classical allusions and intertexts as a set of strategies for shaping the characters’ background of thoughts and perceptions, as well as the readers’ later response to their interpretation. While this approach clearly enables him to address the educated elite of his audience, and to do it in the name of a shared intergenerational lore, it also draws, more crucially, an area of intersection between his Scottish and English readership. The resulting segment of his readers is thus invited, on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border, to an act of self-criticism that endorses alternative interpretations, together with dissonant sentiments in, relation to the Act of Union and its outcomes. The treatment of the topic proceeds in this thesis from extra-textual factors to the internal dimensions of plot and characterisation. After an introduction that situates the discussion within the current debate on Scott, the departure point lies, in Chapter One, within a broader engagement with the historical phenomena and cultural trends of Scott’s age. Chapter Two foregrounds the incorporation of classical elements as it takes place within the idea of Scottishness the author deploys in the novels here under scrutiny. In fact, Graeco-Roman allusions and reappraisals result in the delineation of a negotiable sense of membership and national identity that unfolds in opposition to an invading power. Chapter Three covers a transitional dimension in its dealing with classical models that intervene, at paratextual level, in the self-fashioning of the anonymous narrative voice, by providing a spectrum of literary personae that stand as a surrogate for Scott himself. Finally, issues of gender and sexuality are discussed in the last two chapters, which foreground the role and impact of classical precedents in negotiating dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, selfcensorship and sublimation. Significantly, examples from ancient Greece and Rome will pay a contribution in shedding light on the ways in which both the discourse and knowledge about sexual attitudes and practices were articulated in the early nineteenth-century. Rather than confirming the long-standing notion of Scott as the mouthpiece of pan-British propaganda –a view that has relegated him, for too long, into the comfort-zone of political acquiescence– this work contends that the author’s commitment to the classical past becomes the site for subtly channelling, across his narratives, a counter-discourse of imperial rhetoric, well beyond the celebratory framework of a shared progress.
Supervisor: Harrison, Stephen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Classical literature--Influence ; Mythology ; Classical ; in literature