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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: August 2010

5 - Rebellions and re-unions in the historical novel

Summary

Walter Scott's Waverley novels might seem to epitomize this book's claim that pro-Union Scottish writers employed discourses of feeling derived from both Jacobite culture and Enlightenment historiography to envision a Britain united by shared sympathies. Waverley paradigmatically describes “the total eradication of the Jacobite party,” which the novel conflates with Highland culture, as necessary to Scotland's transition from feudalism to modernity and thus to the harmonious British union seemingly symbolized by the English Waverley's marriage to the Lowland Scot Rose Bradwardine at the end of the novel. Given this marital allegory of an Anglo-Scottish union of affections, it is unsurprising that, since the early nineteenth century, the Waverley novels' readers have remarked upon Scott's encouragement of the “social sympathy” proper to a civilized post-Union Britain. Recently, Evan Gottlieb has described the Waverley novels as “saturated with sympathetic discourse”; Andrew Krull has claimed that Scott's protagonists show a “commitment to the ideal of a community based on the affections”; and Ian Duncan and Ina Ferris have argued that Scott appropriated and transformed traditionally feminine “domestic discourses of sentiment” to perform the work of British nation formation. Contrary to these critics, I will argue that Scott, along with his contemporaries James Hogg and John Galt, questioned the viability of sentimental nationhood during an era of foreign revolution and national unrest by exploring a feminized sensibility's potential to disrupt the process of British unification.

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