Annual Scott Conference on Sir Walter Scott: Sheriff and Outlaw

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The Ninth International Scott Conference, Walter Scott: Sheriff and Outlaw, was held July 5-9, 2011 at University of Wyoming. Diana Gabaldon entertained attendees with this plenary talk. In writing about the Scottish Highlands, Walter Scott took his readers on journeys into frontier country where they encountered fiercely proud natives who passionately defended a way of life that was under threat. The paradigm was readily translated to the American West. In my talk I plan to explore the way Scott offered a narrative of life and landscape that fitted frontier experience in the US and influenced a heroic interpretation of discovery and settlement alongside the loss of the very features that bred its mythic possibilities. Ever since Claire Randall stepped between the standing stones and into eighteenth-century Scotland, Diana Gabaldon has been one of the most popular authors of Scottish historical fiction. Gabaldon's writing escapes the classifications of place, time, and genre. After her debut in Outlander (1991; Cross Stitch in the UK), Gabaldon's heroine has taken the route of Scottish diaspora through France, the West Indies, and America, and Gabaldon's novels have moved from romance through science fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy, and onto the classics shelf. This is all the more remarkable for Gabaldon's education is in Zoology, Marine Biology, and Ecology (Ph.D.) - she was a university research professor for 12 years, and has written scientific journal articles, popular science articles, software reviews, and text books. In addition, she's written introductions to Thomas Paine's Common Sense, and Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, for Random House's recent editions of these works. Gabaldon's introduction to Ivanhoe shows her as a canny reader, as well as a thoughtful writer, of historical fiction - a fascinating literary descendant of Sir Walter. Not surprisingly, her fiction has earned her a wide range of awards: a RITA from the Romance Writers of America; the International Corinne Book Award based on public choice; a Quill for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, also by public vote. Reviewers call her work: "historical fiction with a Moebius twist," and dubs hers "The smartest historical sci-fi adventure romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting Scrooge McDuck comic books." Gabaldon, like Scott, has a sense of humor.
Scott was a lawyer, friend to the great, and literary authority, yet he became so by breaking all the rules. Walter Scott: Sheriff and Outlaw promoted new understanding of Scott's innovations, and his contribution to literary and other fields up to the present day.

The conference offered sessions, plenaries, workshops, roundtables, advice from journal editors, and a trip to see the West Walter Scott made. It coincided with the rodeo and festivities of Laramie's Jubilee Days.

Video shot and edited by UW Television (Cameron Patey, camera/editing and Ali Grossman, producer/graphics)

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