Of Chora and the Taming of the Political Uncanny: Sir Walter Scott’s The Highland Widow as a Nationalizing Tale

Zahra A Hussein Ali


The argument and conclusions of this study do not contradict the positions that have been taken with regard to Scott’s Toryism and its endorsement of Britishization. The study, however, takes issue with critical approaches that sidestep the implicit connections of Scott’s pro-Britishization and his approach to the problem of the Scottish antisyzygy to key framing theoretical notions. Focusing on the underreserached The Highland Widow, the study explores two framing notions— chora and the political uncanny-that illuminate Scott’s discourse on Britishization in a post-Culloden era. The study posits that the novella considers the immediate post-Culloden experiences of the Gael subject in terms of a dialectical interrelationship among the nationalizing tale, the uncanny (which should be rejected), and chora (which should be endorsed and trusted). To put succinctly this interrelationship, the nationalizing tale envisions an ideal egalitarian political structure. While the cultural taming of the political uncanny provides the Gael male subject with a focused rational mind that helps him acknowledge the demands for sociopolitical sobriety and the proper channeling of cultural values to fulfill lucrative pursuits, chora, a receptacle-like space that works affectively to install in the Gael a desire for assimilating into a newly emerging national collectivity, provides a structured space in which he reconstitutes himself within the abstract identity of Britishness. The novella emphasizes three processes that mark the future national state: the hegemony of Anglicization is bridled, Celticism is reformed, and Britishization configures as a guiding secular logos.


Sir Walter Scott; Nationalism and Literature; Scotland in literature; The Uncanny in Literature; Chora

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24200/jass.vol9iss1pp5-22


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