This essay revisits the question of Walter Scott's innovation as a novelist, and Waverley's status as the first historical novel, by showing the degree to which such markers of reputation were fictions of Scott's own making. The essay begins by examining how Scott's manipulation of the novel's date of composition, his ostentatious rejection of contemporary genres, and his later self-review of the novel effectively cleared Waverley of contemporary competitors and bolstered its claims to newness. It then turns to Scott's other strategy, that of looking beyond contemporary generic models to those of the mid-eighteenth century. In thus arguing for Waverley as a rumination on the history of the novel “sixty years since”—as a literary-historical as well as historical novel—the essay considers Scott's debt to the most popular of these midcentury fictions, the object narrative, by reading Waverley in light of its conventions and practices.
Michael Gamer; Waverley and the Object of (Literary) History. Modern Language Quarterly 1 December 2009; 70 (4): 495–525. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2009-013
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