Nicola Watson (Open University) will be presenting her paper, ‘Transporting the Romantic: Sir Walter Scott, Washington Irving and the Romantic Writer’s House’, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 26 February 2013. The talk will take place in the Cardiff University’s John Percival Building, Room 2.48.
This paper investigates the making of Washington Irving’s house in New York State, Sunnyside, as a reworking of Sir Walter Scott’s exercise in self-promotion at Abbotsford. It argues that Irving, having presented and explicated Scott’s home in Geoffrey Crayon’s Sketchbook to a wide public, especially in the States, consciously took Scott’s house as a model for his own display of himself as a romantic writer. Sunnyside rethinks Abbotsford by sentimental referencing, by reiterating the aesthetic of the collection, and in architectural terms. Most strikingly, it mimics Scott’s fantasia by embedding the writer’s house within a ‘heritage’ landscape itself produced by his own writing. The paper enquires as to how typical this project might have become for other romantic American authors, notably Fenimore Cooper, Henry Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The conclusion speculates on whether the romantic understanding of literary genius as most intensely expressed in houses and associated landscapes survived the Atlantic crossing intact, or whether it mutated into something distinctive in the environment of New England.
About the speaker
Nicola Watson is Professor of English Literature at the Open University, and current President of the British Association for Romantic Studies. Her research interests focus on Romanticism, but extend backward into the 18th and forward into the 19th centuries, and include novel and narrative verse, with an emphasis on Scott; women’s writing; travel writing and literary tourism; literary biography; the book in the Romantic period. She is the author of Revolution and the Form of the British Novel 1790–1825 (1994), England’s Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (2002) and The Literary Tourist: Readers & Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain (2006).