That authors might experience ‘afterlives’ after their deaths, and that literary works might experience ‘afterlives’ after publication, is a familiar concept. Biographies, studies, and museums; sequels, revivals, and adaptations: authors and their texts might be revisited and ‘resurrected’ in many ways years after their physical and popular demise. Yet, the rather disconcerting thing about the ‘Ghostly Afterlives of Walter Scott’ with which Professor Toremans is concerned, is that that they occurred during Scott’s lifetime. These ‘afterlives’ took the form of pseudo-translations; works which claimed to be translations of novels by Scott, yet were entirely original compositions. In exuberantly claiming Scott’s authorship, such works subjected Scott to an act of authorial ventriloquism, rendering him responsible for writing events, characters and subjects in which his pen had no part.
Dr. Brecht de Groote showed how the figure of the translator can serve to reflect critically on two central characteristics of Romanticism, in particular late Romanticism: the importance of diverse forms of transfer and transmission, and the tension between aesthetic aspirations and the realities of commercial publication. He began by outlining two conflicting understandings of Romanticism: as determined by socio-political and economic structures, or, in the words of Joep Leerssen, as ‘generated by the cultural communication and dissemination of ideas’. Reception studies have analysed various Romantic-era practices and figurations of reading and writing in order to elucidate how people understood contemporary participation in aesthetic and socio-economic processes, but de Groote suggested that a specific subset, namely figurations of translation, deserves to be examined in more detail.