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Larder and Library: Revising Archives in Castle Dangerous
Abstract

Abstract:

As material text and artistic work, Castle Dangerous includes multiple archives. Ian Duncan reads the barbaric historical episode of the ‘Douglas larder’, recalled by two characters in Scott’s main narrative, as an ‘anti-archive’ representing the collapse of romance, chivalric ideals, and indeed all human cultural values into an abject midden-heap. Both his declining health and his fears of the impending Reform Bill influence Scott’s pessimism. Expanding his version of the larder episode, however, Scott’s fictional minstrel Bertram describes an alternative space – the ‘study’ or library. Surviving Douglas’s burning of the castle, the library sustains multiple minstrel/archivists, from a ghostly Thomas the Rhymer to Scott himself as still-adept imaginative architect. Although the larder represents Derrida’s ‘anti-archive’ as thanatos, the library salvages a positive archive, a source of eros to re-energise and shape the future – but only by acknowledging this tension. Within the contrasting erotic plots of his main narrative, Scott introduces a further archive: ongoing refigurings of William Wallace. Through it, he critiques chivalric romances and their codes, yet recasts them to imagine an accommodation for conservatives within a post-Reform electorate.