The Scottish Novel in 1824

Mon Jul 01 2024 at 01:00 pm to 06:00 pm UTC+01:00

1.06 Project Room, 50 George Square | Edinburgh

School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
Publisher/HostSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
The Scottish Novel in 1824
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A one-day, in-person symposium in celebration of the bicentenary of a landmark year for Scottish fiction.
About this Event

This one-day symposium marks the bicentenary of 1824, an 'annus mirabilis' in the history of Scottish fiction that saw the publication of two experimental masterpieces: James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner and Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet. More generally, this was a moment of ascendancy for ‘Scotch novels’, with the instability wrought by the financial crash of 1825/6 yet to materialise, and with the Edinburgh milieu at the heart of anglophone literary culture.

This event features a special collections ‘show and tell’ workshop, taking place in the Centre for Research Collections on the sixth floor of the Main Library at George Square. It will feature rare books and other material from the University Heritage Collections and from Selkirk Museums. Capacity for this workshop is limited, so please book separately for it and the panel/lecture.

The keynote lecture of the symposium will be given by Professor Ian Duncan (University of California, Berkeley), and is hosted by Scottish Writing in the Nineteenth Century (SWINC) at the University of Edinburgh.


About the lecture

1824 brings to a head the treatment of a distinctive preoccupation of Romantic-period Scottish fiction, its reckoning with the past – specifically, with a lost, disavowed, or broken past that persists, in fragmented and occult forms, into the present. The break with the past may bring disorientation and alienation but also freedom to reshape the future. What do we inherit, what continues in us and forms us, overriding our own knowledge, desire and will – conversely, what can we select and adapt from the past, reject or carry forward?

Modern Scottish history, with its layering of discontinuity and synthesis, gives these questions an urgency that is largely absent from contemporary English fiction. Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet and James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner feature episodes that scramble the relation between genetic inheritance (an ancestry inscribed in the body) and cultural heritage (religious, political, moral), associated, in both cases, with sons severed from paternity. Susan Ferrier’s second novel The Inheritance stages the questions around the conventions of the domestic national tale and the plot of ‘a young lady’s entrance into the world’. Matthew Wald, John Gibson Lockhart’s fourth and last novel, brings a full-scale Gothic internalization and psychologization of the stresses of public history.

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Event Venue & Nearby Stays

1.06 Project Room, 50 George Square, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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