Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies


The Afterlives of Walter Scott. Memory on the Move

Ann Rigney

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was once a household name, but is now largely forgotten. This book explores how Scott’s work became an all-pervasive point of reference for cultural memory and collective identity in the nineteenth century, and why it no longer has this role.

Ann Rigney breaks new ground in memory studies and the study of literary reception by examining the dynamics of cultural memory and the ‘social life’ of literary texts across several generations and multiple media. She pays attention to the remediation of the Waverley novels as they travelled into painting, the theatre, and material culture, as well as to the role of ‘Scott’ as a memory site in the public sphere for a century after his death.

Using a wide range of examples and supported by many illustrations, Rigney demonstrates how remembering Scott’s work helped shape national and transnational identities up to World War One, and contributed to the emergence of the idea of an English-speaking world encompassing Scotland, the British Empire and the United States. Scott’s work forged a potent alliance between memory, literature, and identity that was eminently suited to modernization. His legacy continues in the widespread belief that engaging with the past is a condition for transcending it.

  • The phenomenon of Scott’s rise and fall is explained from the perspective of cultural memory studies
  • Scott’s writings are studied as active ingredients within a broader cultural and social framework and not just as autonomous pieces of literature
  • Includes many hitherto unknown examples from a range of cultural expressions, from theatre to material culture, showing the influence of Scott
  • Richly illustrated with visual materials in a way that ‘concretizes’ the story being told