Walter Scott’s ties with France were personal as well as intellectual and artistic. His wife wasof French birth and his interest in France was manifested both in his non-fiction (with his Life ofNapoleon and the final Series of Tales of a Grand-father) and in his novels, since he chose 15thcenturyFrance as the location of his first novel set on the European continent. While QuentinDurward took some time in achieving success in Britain, its French translation, Quentin Durward, oul’Écossais à la cour de Louis XI was immediately popular and inspired French writers and artists.Victor Hugo, for instance, wrote a laudatory review of the novel in La Muse française, the chief organof the French Romantic movement, and partly conceived his own Notre-Dame de Paris as a responseto it. Eugène Delacroix, one of the foremost French Romantic artists, drew several sketches based onscenes from Scott’s novel and painted L'Assassinat de l'évêque de Liège (The Murder of the Bishop ofLiège, 1829, musée du Louvre).Given that the eleventh international Scott conference will take place in Paris, the AuldAlliance seemed an obvious choice for the general theme of the conference. As the French poet andpolitical writer Alain Chartier declared in 1428, sixty years before the events described in QuentinDurward, ‘this alliance was not written on a sheepskin parchment but engraved in man’s live flesh,written not with ink but with blood’. While these words underline the depth of the relation unitingFrance and Scotland they also ominously hint at the violent wartime context in which the treaty wasconcluded for the first time.The typical pattern of Scott’s plots is one in which the main protagonist is caught in a conflictbetween two opposite forces embodying different stages in the evolution of society. As a result,antagonism is one aspect of his work that has been the focus of much critical study, especially from aMarxist angle, following Georg Luckács’s seminal work on the historical novel. It might however stillbe possible to engage in this field by resorting, for instance, to contemporary debates on the values ofagonistic rhetorics – which some critics see as a means to justify domination while others, on thecontrary, stress “the affirmative dimension of contestation” (Bonnie Honig, Political Theory and theDisplacements of Politics, 1993: 15). The polyphonic – sometimes even verging on the carnivalesque– quality of Scott’s works has, in the past few decades, been emphasized to qualify earlier criticalsuggestions that the Waverley Novels were a teleological tale of Union.
Acknowledging the agonistic structure of Scott’s texts and being aware that early analyses ofScott’s works as straightforward, unequivocal unionist propaganda are now perceived as an oversimplification,should not, however, lead us to reject the notion of alliance as a potentially meaningfultrope to analyse his texts, especially if we choose to define this notion of alliance not simply in termsof its political dimension, but, more broadly, as a bond or connection, an affinity. Speakers aretherefore invited to consider such issues as national or international cultural dialogue, within Scott’sown body of works as well as between his work and that of other artists. Indeed, on the back of A.-J.-B. Defauconpret's immensely influential French translations, the international success of the Waverleynovels was such that they influenced many of his contemporaries – as well as subsequent generationsof authors – at home and abroad. Works such as Louis Maigron’s Le Roman historique à l’époqueromantique : Essai sur l’influence de Walter Scott (1898) or, more recently, Ian Duncan’s Scott’sShadow : The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh (2007), The Reception of Sir Walter Scott in Europe, ed.Murray Pittock (2007), Richard Maxwell’s The Historical Novel in Europe 1650-1950 (2009) or AnnRigney’s The Afterlives of Walter Scott: Memory on the Move (2012) have demonstrated that studyingScott’s works from a comparative literature or inter-textual perspective – or even within a broadercultural and social framework – can be most illuminating. In the wake of the ‘Reworking WalterScott’ Conference (Dundee, April 2017), we will not only welcome papers analysing the influence ofScott on other writers – or the latters’ resistance to his ascendancy – but also papers that study thedialogue between Scott’s works and all forms of adaptation or secondary authorship.
Scott’s historical works and his involvement in contemporary politics will clearly offeropportunities to discuss his conception of the importance and value of alliances between countries –including Scotland’s complex position, torn between Anglophile and Francophile parties. It might alsobe interesting to compare the views he expresses in his fiction with the ones he expresses in his nonfictionalworks to determine whether they coincide or follow different logics. Finally, studying hiswork as a ballad collector and his social or epistolary connexions with most of the other great writersand the great publishing houses of the period will make it possible to see whether he saw writing as acollaborative or competitive activity.These are of course only a few lines along which the theme of alliance can be interpreted andpotential speakers should feel free to offer other interpretations of or variations on this theme.Please note that the deadline for this conference is unusually early. Unfortunately, theFrench academic calendar implies that we should be able to finalise the programme by mid-October2017 in order to book rooms for the conference and apply for funding.Speakers are therefore invited to send a 300 word proposal to the followingaddress by September 30th 2017: firstname.lastname@example.org://www.
- Universite Paris-Sorbonne