Fragments of the past: Walter Scott, material antiquarianism, and writing as preservation
Linforth, Lucy Majella
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This thesis is an exploration of the antiquarian materiality of Walter Scott’s fiction, considering his antiquarian practices alongside his fictional output to suggest that the two are vitally and intricately connected. It locates Scott’s antiquarian researches within the context of a contemporary antiquarianism increasingly concerned with safeguarding the relics, ruins, memories and manners of the national past. The aims of this thesis are threefold. First, it illuminates a more dedicated and dynamic participation in contemporary antiquarian practices than has previously been attributed to Scott, exploring a broad scope of material antiquarian activities in which he was engaged throughout his life. Second, it demonstrates how Scott’s literary output was shaped by his participation in aspects of material antiquarianism, populating his fictions with relics and remains, and recognising the potential of the material artefact as a productive site of narrative. Finally and most importantly, it argues that Scott’s fictions frequently act as textual extensions of his material practice. Scott’s poems and novels are in multifarious and dynamic ways actively involved in the processes of collection, exhibition, preservation, and conservation evident in Scott’s material practices. In so frequently and deliberately incorporating the material relics unearthed by his antiquarian practices into the corpus of his fiction, Scott’s literary works might be regarded as an additional space in which the material past might be preserved, conserved, exhibited, and enshrined. In this way, Scott’s literary works might therefore be considered as antiquarian repositories in which predominantly Scottish antiquities might be preserved.