Epilogue: Cultural Memory, Cultural Amnesia

Ann Rigney

in The Afterlives of Walter Scott

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644018
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738784 | DOI:
Epilogue: Cultural Memory, Cultural Amnesia

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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Invoking Scott’s Old Mortality (1816), and recent discussions in memory studies, the Epilogue offers a reflection on forgetting as the inevitable counterpart of memory. It presents philology as a counter-amnesiac force that works against cultural forgetting by generating new readings of old works, showing them both in their contemporary relevance and in their otherness as voices from a different age. It argues that recent criticism has succeeded in generating new versions of Scott showing his imaginative engagement with issues that still preoccupy us today; this renewed interest in his work should be passed on to the next generation in the classroom. But it is neither desirable nor possible for Scott’s fiction to enjoy the predominant role it had in the nineteenth century. Arguing against nostalgia, the book proposes that Scott’s most enduring legacy is in the ability to think of mutability and transience as a constitutive part of collective memory.

Keywords: Old Mortality; amnesia; counter-amnesia; philology; mutability; transience

Chapter.  4370 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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