Blood and the Revenant in Walter Scott’s The Fair Maid of Perth

in Scottish Medicine and Literary Culture, 1726-1832
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In Sir Walter Scott’s The Fair Maid of Perth; or St Valentine’s Day (1828), the resuscitated subject is referred to as a revenant, a term that Scott borrowed from Henry Thomson’s Blackwoodian tale ‘Le Revenant’ (1827), meaning ‘dead-alive’. Taking its cue from the sanguinary subtext of The Fair Maid of Perth, which is fascinated with the shedding of blood and transfusion of fluids, this chapter reads the Scottish revenant as a literary reflection on the extraordinary promise of blood transfusion in the 1820s: that death could be understood as a process, rather than an absolute state, and that medical intervention could restore life to those on the brink of death and even to the recently deceased.

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