Sample Questions

1) How does Scott use history to augment his storytelling style?

Discuss the way in which Scott uses historical figures and figures from popular myth to make us feel more at home with the characters we are not familiar with. It is easier to believe in the existence of Ivanhoe because he fights alongside King Richard and Robin Hood. These are two characters whose deeds are deeply embedded in the British historical consciousness. Scott furthermore takes common presumptions and prejudices – for instance the corruptness of the Medieval Church – and plays them up to make the reader feel comfortable with the subject matter. Think about the blurring of the line between history, myth, and Scott’s story. Robin Hood may have existed, even though there is no conclusive proof to support this. Therefore, we could argue, Ivanhoe could have existed – or someone very like him.

2) "Scott represented everything that was wrong with the paternalist Romantic voice which supported male-dominated authority." Discuss.

Begin by mentioning the reasoning behind this statement and its origin: Virginia Woolf’s attempts to find a "woman’s voice" that would consciously avoid the voice of the Romantic authors. Describe what she found so objectionable about Scott’s style: the didacticism, the lack of space for the reader to manoeuvre in the story, the firm roots in actuality, rather than any concession to the unreal or imaginary. Give examples of when Scott interjects as author to point his readers in the direction he wants them to go. Similarly, give examples of when you feel that Scott is not entirely in charge of the events of his story: for instance when Rebecca is ministering to Ivanhoe. Consider whether Scott was a great writer whose command of the language causes him to have an iron grip on the story, or an example of flawed Romantic didacticism.

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