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British Association for Romantic Studies' 2014 Early Career and Postgraduate Conference

Activity: Conference participationParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

20/03/2014

Romantic Borderlands: Scott and the Solway Coast

Recent discussions of the ‘four nations’ of British Romanticism have shed new light on the role played by borderlands in shaping Romantic literary discourse. In Cartographies of Culture, for example, Damian Walford Davies has offered a revisionary reading of ‘Tintern Abbey’ as a poem ‘dynamically constituted’ by its movement across the ‘frontier topographies’ of England and Wales. In this seminar, which takes inspiration from Davies’s work, we’ll be turning our attention northwards to consider that most topographically dynamic—and yet, strangely, neglected— of Romantic borderlands: the Solway Firth.

Sprawling out along the western edge of Hadrian’s Wall, for centuries the intertidal waters of the Solway have served not only as a barrier or line of defence, but also as a line of approach and communication linking Southern Scotland with the Cumberland coastal plain. Situated at the margins of two nations (a place of shifting sands, identities and allegiances), the liminality of this littoral zone is reinforced by its literary heritage. Territorially, it belongs partly to landscapes of William Wordsworth and Robert Burns: being located more or less halfway between the former’s birthplace at Cockermouth and the latter’s mausoleum in Dumfries. Yet, by right, it is wholly of the border country sung and celebrated in the works of Sir Walter Scott.

Scott drew on the Solway as a setting in a number of his works, including Guy Mannering and his border Minstrelsy. In no other work, however, does it play as decisive a role as it does in his final major Scottish novel, Redgauntlet (1824). Reading passages from the novel alongside David Daiches’s pioneering essay ‘Scott’s Redgauntlet’ and Brian Blake’s ‘Sulwath’ (the first chapter of his topographical study The Solway Firth), we’ll explore how the geography of the Solway coast underpins Scott’s narrative and how it contributes to an alternative Romantic vision of the north Lakes region.

Related Event Information

EventConference
Title British Association for Romantic Studies' 2014 Early Career and Postgraduate Conference
Date20/03/14 → …
CountryUnited Kingdom