Legitimate Histories: Scott, Gothic, and the Authorities of Fiction ( Oxford English Monographs Series)

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Legitimate Histories is an innovative reading of Walter Scott's Waverley Novels in the context of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Gothic. The book includes analyses of such neglected works as The Fortunes of Nigel, Peveril of the Peak, and Woodstock, as well as the more frequently studied Rob Roy, The Heart of Midlothian, and Redgauntlet. Offering fresh insight into the variety and complexity of Scott's novels, and into the traditions of criticism which have so often obscured them, Legitimate Histories makes an important contribution to the study of Romanticism, the novel, and to current theoretical debates concerning historical fiction and historiographic authority.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Intelligent and wide-ranging book."—Eighteenth Century "iction.

"...clearly written and well researched..."—Modern Philology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198112242
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/21/1994
  • Series: Oxford English Monographs Series
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.63 (w) x 8.75 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Durham
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Table of Contents

A Note on Texts
Introduction 1
1 The Healthy Text: Scott, the Monsters, and the Critics 21
1 The New-Discovered Continent 27
2 The Titanic Incompetent 41
3 An Initiated Ghost-Seer 51
2 Gothic: The Passages That Lead to Nothing 68
1 The Delayed and the Unutterable: Evasiveness in Gothic Structure and Style 72
2 Legitimate History and the Fantasy of Origins 85
3 'Sheltered Under the Cannon': The Anxieties of Not Being Influenced 93
4 The Implicated Reader in the Drama of Terror 101
3 Fictions of Authenticity: The Frame Narratives and Notes of the Waverley Novels 117
1 Scott's First Editions: The Author in Disguise 123
2 Notes and the Magnum Opus: 'The Mask of Veracity' 142
4 Secrecy, Silence, and Anxiety: Gothic Narratology and the Waverley Novels 161
1 The Pirate: 'The Interest of a Riddle' 169
2 Rob Roy: 'The Secrets of this Fearful Prison House' 177
3 Peveril of the Peak: 'Dimly Seen by Twilight' 188
5 Phantoms of Revolution: Five Case-Studies of Literary Convention and Social Analysis 196
1 The Dead Past and a Misbegotten Present: The Antiquary 197
2 An Apostate Spirit Incarnate: The Heart of Midlothian 205
3 Re-Plotting Nationalist Rebellion: The Bride of Lammermoor and The Milesian Chief 214
4 Phantoms of Revolution: The Fortunes of Nigel 225
5 Ritual and Trial: The House of Aspen and Anne of Geierstein 233
6 'Ripping Up Auld Stories': Exhumation and the Gothic Imagination in Redgauntlet 246
Conclusion. Labyrinth, Origin, and the Gothic House of Mystery: Woodstock 265
Bibliography 274
Index 313
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2007

    Walter Scott writes Gothic Novels because that's the way his readers grapple with history

    I told a dinner partner that I was reading Fiona Robertson's study of Sir Walter Scott, LEGITIMATE HISTORIES. His reaction to the title was immediate and visceral: 'Who decides what makes history legitimate or illegitimate?' The title meant something concrete, arrogant and provocative to my friend. *** To me, by contrast, it meant initially nothing and later something more abstract. It was a title created by an academician making instant sense -- via its sub-title, SCOTT, GOTHIC, AND THE AUTHORITIES OF FICTION -- to only a handful of other Walter Scott specialists. *** But, its arguably too obscure title aside, this is a fine, well written book for anyone with six or seven Walter Scott novels 'of the 27 written' under his belt and who needs help unraveling complexities in Scott's texts. Fiona Robertson examines Gothic elements in Scott and rates them more highly than have most previous critics.*** Professor Robertson defines her subject: 'Gothic is a type of fiction which invites readers' fears and anxieties in highly stylized mystery-tales, using a limited set of plots, settings and character-types, and including an element of history' 'p. 70'. *** Key Gothic novels include the very first, THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO '1764' by Horace Walpole, FRANKENSTEIN '1818' by Mary Shelley and MELMOTH THE WANDERER by Charles Robert Maturin '1820'. A Gothic novel plunges readers vicariously into dank dungeons and crypts, where they pore over ancient manuscripts and codes, seek out hidden mysteries in chests and boxes, encounter ghosts and spirits and are generally frightened out of their wits. Eighteenth and 19th Century Gothic novels are grandsires of today's vampire tales by Anne Rice or Dan Brown's THE DA VINCI CODE.*** During his lifetime '1771 -1832' Sir Walter Scott was praised either for turning his back on the Gothic he absorbed as a boy or for rising above Gothic in his 27 novels. Sir Walter was lauded for emphasizing truth, accuracy and sober realism. He was thought to downplay ghosts, explain away superstitions and promote wholesome, healthy attitudes in his readers. *** Later critics, however, discovered more Gothic elements in Scott than they liked. Some of them admitted that he transcended the Gothic by making fun of it. Others wrote that when he was sick or tired, Sir Walter mechanically fell back on White Ladies and banshees and Gothic set situations and literary cliches because he could not think of anything better. *** Professor Robertson makes the case that Walter Scott knew perfectly well what he was about whenever he dipped into his Gothic tool case. And he did it often. There are many, many voices in almost any Scott novel, starting with the author, then the narrator, then the discoverers of manuscripts which allegedly give raw materials for the plot, plus narrative frames, introductions, notes, etc. Scott made an implicit pact with his readers. Their preferred, recently acquired way to assimilate the past through fiction was through Gothic and when Walter Scott gave them Gothic, they knew he was only helping them see unfamiliar times and places through the Gothic lenses that they had been wearing for a long time and which they liked very much. *** LEGITIMATE HISTORIES climaxes in analysis of two novels, REDGAUNTLET and WOODSTOCK. Recent critics think very highly of REDGAUNTLET, because they are big on meta- plots and REDGAUNTLET they see as 'writing about writing,' with its epistles and reflections on the relations between words and reality. Since they already like REDGAUNTLET for other reasons, those critics are predisposed to do justice to REDGAUNTLET's many Gothic and pre-Gothic 'e.g. Miltonian' elements. By contrast, WOODSTOCK is not highly rated of late and it is a challenge to get at Scott's purpose in larding it with Gothic language and situations. To Fiona Rob

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