Robert Burns and Pastoral: Poetry and Improvement in Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland

Paperback | August 9, 2015

byNigel Leask

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Robert Burns and Pastoral is a full-scale reassessment of the writings of Robert Burns (1759-1796), arguably the most original poet writing in the British Isles between Pope and Blake, and the creator of the first modern vernacular style in British poetry. Although still celebrated asScotland's national poet, Burns has long been marginalised in English literary studies worldwide, due to a mistaken view that his poetry is linguistically incomprehensible and of interest to Scottish readers only. Nigel Leask challenges this view by interpreting Burns's poetry as an innovative andcritical engagement with the experience of rural modernity, namely to the revolutionary transformation of Scottish agriculture and society in the decades between 1760 and 1800, thereby resituating it within the mainstream of the Scottish and European enlightenments. Detailed study of the literary, social, and historical contexts of Burns's poetry explodes the myth of the "Heaven-taught ploughman", revealing his poetic artfulness and critical acumen as a social observer, as well as his significance as a Romantic precursor. Leask discusses Burns's radicaldecision to write "Scots pastoral" (rather than English georgic) poetry in the tradition of Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson, focusing on themes of Scottish and British identity, agricultural improvement, poetic self-fashioning, language, politics, religion, patronage, poverty, antiquarianism, andthe animal world. The book offers fresh interpretations of all Burns's major poems and some of the songs, the first to do so since Thomas Crawford's landmark study of 1960. It concludes with a new assessment of his importance for British Romanticism and to a "Four Nations" understanding of Scottishliterature and culture.

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Robert Burns and Pastoral is a full-scale reassessment of the writings of Robert Burns (1759-1796), arguably the most original poet writing in the British Isles between Pope and Blake, and the creator of the first modern vernacular style in British poetry. Although still celebrated asScotland's national poet, Burns has long been margin...

Nigel Leask was appointed to Glasgow's Regius Chair of English Language and Literature in 2004, and is currently Head of the School of Critical Studies. He was previously Reader in Romantic Literature in the English Faculty at Cambridge University. He has published widely in the area of Romantic literature and culture, with a special e...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pagesPublished:August 9, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198732422

ISBN - 13:9780198732426

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Table of Contents

Introduction: 'The Heaven-taught ploughman'1. Burns and the 'New Husbandry'2. Scots Pastoral3. The Making of a Poet4. Pastoral Politics5. Beasties6. Hellfire and Commonsense7. The Annals of the Poor8. The Deil and the Exciseman9. Across the Shadow Line: Burns and British RomanticismBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"This excellent book on Robert Burns offers a rich new contribution to the cultural and intellectual history of the Scottish Enlightenment." --Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, Modern Philology 03/03/2014