The Social Memory of Jane Porter and her Scottish Chiefs

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    Abstract

    Formed within the interplay of history, culture and cognition, the concept of social memory is introduced to evaluate a key element of Scotland's nineteenth-century national tale. Being never more than partially captured by state and monarchy, and only imperfectly carried by institutions and groups, the national tale has comprised a number of narratives. Within the post-Union fluidity of Scotland's place within Britain, and at a time of European conflict, this tale coalesced around social memories of the mediaeval patriot William Wallace. Distinctive to that process was the historical romance The Scottish Chiefs (1810), as it was merged with the public life of its author, Jane Porter (bap. 1776–1850). By situating this fictional account of the life of Wallace within the social memories of its author, and in society more widely, attention is directed towards a set of stories formed in Porter's own cognition. These living memories were forged in her childhood experiences of a new life in Scotland; her claim to have pioneered the historical novel, confirmed by her friend Walter Scott; her personal, familial, and fictional projections of her public self; and in how contemporaries returned to her, and made known to society, their reception of her personality, her deportment, and her fiction. It was in combination that a leading social memory of the nation's tale was formed out of living memory that could not have transcended time and place.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)311-335
    Number of pages25
    JournalScottish Historical Review
    Volume91
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012

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