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Anxiety in the Archive: From the Antiquary to the Absent Author


The archive controls our anxieties about the unpredictable natural world by translating it into prose. At the same time, to write the landscape is to internalise its unpredictability. Reading through Susan Stewart’s theories of longing, and Carolyn Steedman’s theory of dust, this article considers how Walter Scott, writing poetry and novels, contained the environment, but also pointed to its excess and uncontainability. Scott’s house at Abbotsford is a jewel box that constrains history, yet with Scott’s works shelved alongside disparate artefacts inside a house that itself expresses national history and is set in an expansive landscape, Abbotsford mediates and invites a wilder world. With the interpretive author no longer in evidence, the archive is a site of productive anxiety.