Essays in Romanticism

“The Contagion of Her Wretchedness”: Rousing Interest in the Highland Widows of Scott and McQueen

Essays in Romanticism (2021), 28, (2), 93–112.

Abstract

Walter Scott’s “The Highland Widow” proved to be a challenging text to teach online during the pandemic; put off by antiquated language, embedded narratives, and the temporal distance of the widow and her history, my students had little to offer in our discussion. In order to rouse their interest and restore “classroom affect,” I incorporated streaming video of two Alexander McQueen fashion shows with thematic resonance—Highland Rape (1995) and Widows of Culloden (2006). Like Scott, McQueen compels his audience to confront the violence and forced assimilation of Scotland’s past, but in a visually provocative and immediate fashion that captures the attention of easily distracted, languishing students. Together, the two artists offer a recursive model for engaging students in remote and difficult texts, encouraging instructors to prolong the intensity of the affective encounter and defer the moment of instructional resolution.

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Author details

Tegan, Mary Beth