HUMS 410, Nineteenth Century Historical Narrative

With the publication of Waverley in 1814, Walter Scott invented the modern historical novel. This team-taught seminar will read historical novels and other varieties of historical writing from the nineteenth century to consider how the British imagined their relationship to the past. The period was marked by the rise of “historical consciousness”: an awareness in the present that you participate in the arc of history. Historical novels both formed and recorded such consciousness as they negotiated the interplay between the individual and nation (and thus also between personal memory and public memory). Historians, similarly, theorized the relative impacts of individual action and larger forces. We will situate texts within their broader cultural framework. Topics will include: the Jacobite legacy, the French Revolution, the Renaissance revival, neo-medievalism, philosophies of history (with their varying attitudes toward agency), and the genre of the historical novel.