Essays in Romanticism

From Alexis to Scott and De Quincey: Walladmor and the Irony of Pseudotranslation

Essays in Romanticism (2014), 21, (2), 107–123.

Abstract

This article examines a complex of interactions initiated by the 1823-4 publication of Walladmor, a German pseudotranslation of Walter Scott by Willibald Alexis, by charting the reactions to the novel in the periodical press as well as in the work of Scott and Thomas De Quincey. We argue that Alexis incorporates his pseudotranslational labour in his paratexts and narratives in order to ironically disrupt the assumedly unidirectional and merely derivative nature of translation, thereby at once continuing Scott's aesthetic innovations and exploiting them for new uses. While Scott and De Quincey both appear to respond to Walladmor by re-inscribing the novel into a traditional aesthetic, they actually continue and push forward Alexis's ironical gestures, essentially establishing a perpetual movement of pseudotranslation, with permanent possibilities for destabilising the opposition between the Romantic ideal of organic, original, artistic creation, and the modern reality of mechanical and commercial production on the other.

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Author details

de Groote, Brecht

Toremans, Tom