Walter Scott is beyond doubt Scotland's most significant and best known writer of fiction; his work extended beyond this, however, and his poetic achievement, his roles as social commentator and collector of Scottish artefacts, and his long and lasting influence make him one of the most culturally significant figures of the 19th century both in Scotland and internationally. The Walter Scott Research Centre was established in 1991 with the aim of supporting all that is excellent in fields of research relating to Walter Scott and his world. The Co-Directors of the Centre are Professor David Hewitt and Dr Alison Lumsden.
Members of staff teaching and researching in the School of Language and Literature support the Centre. They include Professor David Hewitt, Professor in Scottish Literature and Editor-in-chief of the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels, Dr J H Alexander, Honorary Reader, Dr Catherine Jones, lecturer, and Dr Alison Lumsden, lecturer. The Centre is also supported by a number of colleagues working in related disciplines within both the School and the College, including Dr John Morrison in History of Art, providing the potential for Scott to be studied in a variety of contexts including Romanticism, 19th century Irish literature, Scottish art, Scots language, Victorian literature, and British, European and American politics.
The main focus of the Centre's activities to date has been the completion of the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels, an international project set up to provide scholarly editions of all of Scott's fiction. The Editor-in-chief and two of the General Editors of this edition are members of the Centre and are at present actively engaged in its completion. The edition has been met with critical acclaim and 19 volumes have been published to date.
The main resources of the Centre include the Bernard C Lloyd Walter Scott Collection which includes British editions of nearly every work Scott ever wrote, edited or contributed to, alongside material relating to the influence of Scott throughout the 19th century. It is the most comprehensive collection of printed Scott material there is, and, along with the magnificent collections of Romantic and Enlightenment materials already available at Aberdeen, and its outstanding collections of 19th century fiction, provides a major resource for scholarship. In particular this collection offers opportunities for research in Scott and opera, Scott and popular culture, Scott and the development of the European nation state, the development of the 19th century publishing industry in Scotland, and the influence of Scott on the Southern states of America; the Centre proposes to develop research projects on several of these fields over the next few years.
Many graduate students working in fields relating to Scott and his world and textual editing have completed doctoral degrees at Aberdeen and several more are currently working on such topics under the supervision of staff connected to the Walter Scott Research Centre. The School of Language & Literature also has a taught MLitt in English Literary Studies, which, alongside scholarly training, offers several relevant courses: these include Romanticism and Genre; The Novel and Nation 1800-1830: Ireland and Scotland; Enlightenment to Romanticism: the Scottish Achievement; Textual Editing; and Scott.