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John Galt: Observations and Conjectures on Literature, History, and Society

Overview

This volume offers a revaluation of the work of Romantic-era Scottish writer John Galt. Galt traveled throughout the Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds and founded the Canadian city of Guelph while remaining in touch with local cultures and politics in Scotland and England. He wrote fiction, drama, and biography based on his personal observations of life and in ways that associated him with the “theoretical” or “conjectural” methods of Scottish Enlightenment historiographers.Galt’s insights into the societies he ...

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John Galt: Observations and Conjectures on Literature, History, and Society

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Overview

This volume offers a revaluation of the work of Romantic-era Scottish writer John Galt. Galt traveled throughout the Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds and founded the Canadian city of Guelph while remaining in touch with local cultures and politics in Scotland and England. He wrote fiction, drama, and biography based on his personal observations of life and in ways that associated him with the “theoretical” or “conjectural” methods of Scottish Enlightenment historiographers.Galt’s insights into the societies he inhabited and visited, his perceptions of political extremism and class conflict, his attitudes toward community building and progress, his convictions about determinism and historical revisionism, his strategies for manipulating literary genres and readers’ responses, and his ambivalence about the value of literature deserve consideration in light of new thinking in our own fields about what constitutes social knowledge and viable ways to represent it. The essays in this volume examine Galt’s work in light of the convergence of literature, history, and social theory in Scottish Enlightenment and Romantic-era culture and in our own interdisciplinary environment. Discussing Galt’s work and significance in the many areas, genres, and contexts in which he figures, they broaden the circle of contacts with whom we associate Galt, moving from expected comparisons with contemporaries Walter Scott and James Hogg to unexpected links with such later authors and social thinkers as George Douglas Brown and Harriet Martineau. Moreover, these essays expand the repertoire of works studied, offering the first extended analyses of Eben Erskine, Rothelan, and the Travels and Observations of Hareach, the Wandering Jew along with new readings of Annals of the Parish, Bogle Corbet, and Ringan Gilhaize. Overall, the essays draw out the implications of Galt’s practices and relations as a journalist, dramatist, critic, biographer, and novelist, developing grounded conjectures about their significance in Galt’s time and our own.

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Editorial Reviews

Mark Schoenfield
Written by some of the most influential scholars of Scottish romantic literature, the essays in this volume reintroduce John Galt into his crucial roles in shaping that literature. The wide range of approaches, the sheer amount of new information, the excellent balance and blend of readings and historical and biographical context all make this volume a pleasure to read, and a clear call for continued attention to John Galt. Like Galt’s work itself, these essays display humor, elegance, and a keen eye for the social and aesthetic trends of his time period.
Matthew Wickman
This excellent collection of essays, the first to appear on John Galt in several decades, brilliantly illuminates one of Romanticism's most fascinating and prolific writers. Regina Hewitt and the volume's contributors are to be commended for attending so perceptively to the startling diversity of Galt's life and work, ranging as it does across genres, continents, and Zeitgeists.
CHOICE
Galt (1779-1832) has always been in the shadow of writers like Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg, but his stock has been rising in recent decades. In her introduction, Hewitt (Univ. of South Florida) highlights Galt's contribution to theoretical and conjectural history through his observations and comments on human institutions and practices, especially in novels like Annals of the Parish and The Ayrshire Legatees. These 15 essays, most by established scholars, help situate and rehabilitate Galt, including beyond the local and national contexts. The volume comprises four sections. The three essays in the first, "Progress, Memory, and Communities," resituate and rehabilitate Galt, his serial works, and his travel writing and epistolary fiction. Section 2, "Conflict and Consensus" (three essays), treats diverse topics like narrative strategies, detective fiction, and trauma theory. Galt's versatility is highlighted in section 3, "Justice and Tolerance" (four essays), in treatments of his medievalism, the "wandering Jew" theme, drama and criticism, and his "magazinity." And section 4, "Identities and Ethics" (four essays), considers "local" matters (cf. The Provost, The Member); circum-Atlantic topics, especially immigration and Canada (Bogle Corbet); European national characters in his travel writings; and Galt the social theorist and Harriet Martineau. The volume offers many new and different approaches to Galt. Summing Up: Recommended.
Scottish Literary Review
[John Galt] hopefully highlights synergistic aspects of key approaches to Galt presented therein. This is an important body of work that makes a valuable contribution to critical studies of the long eighteenth century, Scottish Enlightenment and Romantic-era literature. It breathes new life into Galt’s work, eliciting a desire to revisit his better known texts, and to seek out those less familiar for a first reading. In doing so, it is to be hoped that it might also pave the way for the realisation of a much-needed complete modern scholarly edition of Galt.
European Romantic Review
[Regina Hewitt has written a] stimulating collection of essays.
The Year's Work In English Studies
John Galt’s fiction is enjoying something of a revival, which will be bolstered by John Galt: Observations and Conjectures on Literature, History, and Society, a superb collection of essays edited by Regina Hewitt.
Choice
Galt (1779-1832) has always been in the shadow of writers like Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg, but his stock has been rising in recent decades. In her introduction, Hewitt (Univ. of South Florida) highlights Galt's contribution to theoretical and conjectural history through his observations and comments on human institutions and practices, especially in novels like Annals of the Parish and The Ayrshire Legatees. These 15 essays, most by established scholars, help situate and rehabilitate Galt, including beyond the local and national contexts. The volume comprises four sections. The three essays in the first, "Progress, Memory, and Communities," resituate and rehabilitate Galt, his serial works, and his travel writing and epistolary fiction. Section 2, "Conflict and Consensus" (three essays), treats diverse topics like narrative strategies, detective fiction, and trauma theory. Galt's versatility is highlighted in section 3, "Justice and Tolerance" (four essays), in treatments of his medievalism, the "wandering Jew" theme, drama and criticism, and his "magazinity." And section 4, "Identities and Ethics" (four essays), considers "local" matters (cf. The Provost, The Member); circum-Atlantic topics, especially immigration and Canada (Bogle Corbet); European national characters in his travel writings; and Galt the social theorist and Harriet Martineau. The volume offers many new and different approaches to Galt. Summing Up: Recommended.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Regina Hewitt is professor of English at University of South Florida.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Illustrations
Chapter 1: Introduction: Observations and Conjectures on John Galt’s Place in Scottish
Enlightenment and Romantic-era Studies by Regina Hewitt
Section I. Progress, Memory, and Communities
Chapter 2: Remembering John Galt by Gerard Carruthers
Chapter 3: Altered States: Galt, Serial Fiction, and the Romantic Miscellany by Ian Duncan
Chapter 4: The Sense of No Ending: John Galt and the Travels of Commoners and Kings in “The
Steam-Boat” and “The Gathering of the West” by Caroline McCracken-Flesher
Section
II. Conflict and Consensus
Chapter 5: John Galt’s Annals of the Parish and the Strategies of Tales of Locale by Martha Bohrer
Chapter 6: The Corrective Detective: Genre and Masculinity in Sir Andrew Wylie of that Ilk by Sharon Alker
Chapter 7: Trauma and Witness in Ringan Gilhaize by Alyson Bardsley
Section III. Justice and Tolerance
Chapter 8: Feudal Days: John Galt’s Ambivalent Medievalism by Clare A. Simmons
Chapter 9: John Galt’s Travels and Observations of Hareach, the Wandering Jew:
History and Identity; Narrative and Nation by Elizabeth Kraft
Chapter 10: Galt and the Theater by Frederick Burwick
Chapter 11: John Galt’s Angular Magazinity by Robert Morrison
Section IV. Identities and Ethics
Chapter 12: Public Benefits and Private Gains: The Provost and The Member by H. B. de Groot
Chapter 13: Time, Emigration, and the Circum-Atlantic World: John Galt’s Bogle Corbet by Kenneth McNeil
Chapter 14: Agency, Destiny, and National Character: John Galt and Europe by Angela Esterhammer
Chapter 15: John Galt, Harriet Martineau, and the Role of the Social Theorist by Regina Hewitt
Contributors
Index

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