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Robert Burns Lives
Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA


I learned about Professor Leith Davis from my good friend, Alastair McIntyre, High Chief of He told me about an unusually good article on Robert Burns written by Professor Davis and was kind enough to secure it from her and share it with me. As is the case with all good things I run across that have anything to do with Burns, I learned in a brief period of time that I wanted to share Professor Davis’ article with the readers of Robert Burns Lives! and introduce you to a unique and dedicated Burnsian. I found her to be as genuine as her article, humble when she could have been proud and arrogant. She is a person I’d like to meet personally and look forward to that day in the future. Perhaps being the mother of three children has something to do with her friendly personality. I have chosen to include her curriculum vitae at the end of the article to call attention to her many outstanding academic achievements. She is currently working on a two book projects: a collection of essays on "Robert Burns in Transatlantic Context" (co-edited with Sharon Alker and Holly Faith Nelson) and a monograph, Transnational Articulations: Print Culture and the Imagining of Global Communities in Britain and Ireland, 1690-1820. She is currently serving as Director of Simon Fraser University's Scottish Studies Centre.

The Robert Burns 1859 Centenary:
Mapping Transatlantic (Dis)Connection

By Leith David
Professor, Department of English
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC


The following is a condensed version of a talk given as the Jill MacKenzie Memorial Lecture at the Centre for Scottish Studies at the University of Guelph on Saturday, Sept. 25. The asterisks mark where images were presented during the talk. An extended version of this essay appears in Robert Burns in Transatlantic Culture, ed. Sharon Alker, Leith Davis and Holly Nelson (forthcoming with Ashgate Press). Copyright 2010 Leith Davis.

2009 was designated the ‘Year of Homecoming’ by the Scottish government, who funded a year-long series of events designed to highlight ‘Scotland’s great contributions to the world’: whisky, golf, ancestry, innovators and, of course, its national poet, Robert Burns, who was conveniently marking his 250th anniversary.


As part of its global campaign, Homecoming Scotland, the organization responsible for encouraging Scots and Scotophiles to visit Scotland during the year, sponsored a virtual ‘World Famous Burns Supper’ in partnership with the Famous Grouse Whisky Company. They built a website for the virtual occasion that tracked Burns Night celebrations around the globe. Anyone who was holding a Burns celebration on 25 January 2009 was encouraged to ‘complete our simple two-step registration to . . . become part of the World’s largest ever Burns Night celebration!’


The website featured an interactive ‘Global Hosts Map’ with 3,673 pinpointed sites, mostly clustered in Great Britain and North America, but with examples from as far away as Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe. The technology used to represent this ‘World Famous Burns Supper’ – Google Maps – was new. But the sentiment behind it – the attempt to mediate the connection between Burns enthusiasts from different locations around the world – actually dates back one hundred and fifty years earlier to the first centenary celebration of Burns’s birth.1 While Burns had served as symbol of Scottish identity for Scots at home and abroad before 1859, it was the centenary anniversary that served to globalize him, drawing on the media of the era – print and the new technology of the telegraph--in order to represent Burns as a modern phenomenon linking individuals around the world. At the same time as it promised to unite different groups in an international celebration, however, the centenary also made it apparent that ‘Burns’ could look very different depending on which side of the Atlantic he was being toasted.


In Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary, Paul Giles examines ‘the ways specific local conditions and cultural landscapes reconstitute transnational networks in different ways’.2 The Burns Centenary, I suggest, offers a unique opportunity to consider how the ‘local conditions’ influencing the representation of one particular literary figure at one particular time ‘reconstitute’ transatlantic networks. From a wider prospect, the Burns Centenary also allows us a point of reference from which to consider the dynamic relationship between the local, the national and the global.

Building on the work of Giles, my paper today examines the discourse surrounding the centenary events, suggesting the way in which Burns served in 1859, not only as a ‘mediator between memory communities’ on either side of the Atlantic, but also as a marker of a complex interaction and collision of local, national, imperial and transatlantic interests.

The paper is divided into five sections.

1. The first part of my paper touches on celebrations of Burns before the 1859 centenary

2. I move into a discussion of the Centenary as a modern globalizing project.

3. I look in particular at the way Burns served as an ambiguous figure who suggested both the marginalization of peripheral with the imperial centre and also the assertion of the peripheral within the imperial centre

4. Finally I consider the specific ways in which the Centenary was celebrated in locations on either side of the Atlantic.

5. I conclude with some general comments on the consequences of the re-presentation of Burns during the Centenary

Part 1:

During the first half of the nineteenth century, Burns became, as Alex Tyrrell suggests, “what Pierre Nora has called a ‘lieu de memoire’, the focus of a form of public memory that appropriates not only places, but historical figures, literary works and artistic objects to consecrate them as the quintessence of a nation.”i


The process through which this was achieved was complex and multi-faceted. The circulation of works like James Currie’s The Works of Robert Burns and Allan Cunningham’s The Life and Land of Burns in international print networks helped make Burns and Scotland synonymous.


In addition, the construction of memorials and statues to Burns made locations like Dumfries and Ayr focal points “for continuing worldwide interest in Burns.” The evolution of Burns clubs from local gatherings of friends of the poet to national and international sites where ex-patriot Scots joined together served to perpetuate knowledge of Burns both in Scotland and in Scottish emigrant communities. Despite the fact that Burns’s reputation steadily expanded both in Scotland and abroad, however, celebrations of the Scottish poet and songwriter, although clearly demarcating a worldwide influence, were confined to a local scope.

Apart from two abortive dinners in 1816 that James Mackay suggests hinted at a “Burns celebration on a national scale,” it was not until 6 August, 1844 that there was a wider celebration of Burns.


The Ayr Burns Festival Festival was prompted by the return of Burns’s three remaining sons to Scotland. James Glencairn and William had been serving in India for the previous twenty years, while Robert Burns, Jr, had held a position at the Stamp office at Somerset House in London. Organized by Christopher North and Lord Eglinton with committees formed in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr, the Ayr Burns Festival was modeled, according to one participant, on the Shakespeare Festival held at Avon. It featured a huge procession, public speeches and a banquet for 2,000 guests in a pavilion specially erected for the occasion in a field next to the Burns Monument. The September 1844 edition of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine covered the event, marveling at its popularity and likening the spectacle to that produced on the occasion of a royal visit: “The streets were swarming with people, and sounding with the crash of music. There were arches on the bridge, flags streaming from windows, and bells tolling from the steeples—symptoms of a jubilee as great as if Royalty had descended unawares, and the whole district had arisen to pay honour to its Queen.”

“Stanzas for the Burns’ Festival” by “Delta,” published in the same issue of Blackwood’s, suggests that audience members came from England and Ireland for the occasion:

Sons of England! Sons of Erin!
Ye who, journeying from afar,
Throng with us the shire of Coila,
Led by Burns’s guiding star.ii

And the event did attract at least one visitor from outside Britain: the American poet and journalist, Bayard Taylor, who was traveling around Europe in the employ of the New York Tribune.iii But the Festival was primarily a national event. In his speech on the occasion, Lord Eglinton remarked that, “every town and every district; every class, and every sex, and every age, has come forward to pay homage to their poet.”iv In fact, in the pages of Blackwood’s, the Burns Festival is presented as a national recovery program for Scotland, an antidote to the “perilous influences” of the Chartist movement that Scotland had been “exposed to” in recent years.

Part 2. The 1859 Centenary as Global Event

The national agenda of the Burns Festival can be contrasted with the global perspective that characterized the Centenary celebration of the poet fifteen years later. Instead of being focused on one geographic location, the Centenary was celebrated in a network of connected locations, from Dumfries to Dunedin.


.As Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested from his transatlantic vantage point at the celebration in Boston: “At the first announcement, from I know not whence, that the 25th of January was the hundredth anniversary of Robert Burns, a sudden consent warmed the great English race, in all its kingdoms, colonies and states, all over the world, to keep the festival.”v The Illustrated London News for 29 January 1859 indicated a similar sense of the global quality of the celebration, noting that, “all who speak the English language, whether scattered over the United States and Canada, or cherishing in the Southern Hemisphere the name and the traditions of the Old Country—united on this remarkable occasion to recognise and to glorify a Poet.”vi

The Burns Centenary, as Ann Rigney points out, must be seen in the context of other nineteenth-century public festivals of commemoration that “provided an occasion and a cultural form through which affiliations could be performed in a pleasurable way.” According to Rigney, public festivals represented “a unique temporal mixture” which was “arguably absent from other modes of memorialisation”: participants of public festivals “celebrated future memories, historical affiliations and, last but not least: present-day bonding. For as the name suggests, co-memoration is above all a matter of remembering together: at the same time, often in the same place, and focussed on a common theme.”vii The extent of the co-memoration in the case of Burns was truly staggering, however.


James Ballantine’s Chronicle of the Hundredth Birthday of Robert Burns gives some indication of the scope of the project. A stained-glass artist and writer from Edinburgh who served as the Secretary of the Burns Centenary celebration at Edinburgh’s Music Hall, Ballantine collected descriptions from 872 celebrations in his immense volume, broken down into 676 events from Scotland, 76 from England, 10 from Ireland, 48 from the Colonies, 61 from the United States and 1 from Copenhagen.viii As Ballantine observes, however, his work represents only a “condensation” of the actual number of festivities that took place.ix The Chronicle itself constitutes an extremely self-conscious process of “co-memoration” of the Burns centenary. Using an impressive network of sources who sent information and newspaper clippings from local papers, Ballantine published his work a mere four months after the January celebration.x The narrative of the Chronicle weaves the celebrations together into one vast experience. The occasional slippage of accounts of the speeches from third person to first person and back again gives readers the sense of a pan-optic vision that zooms occasionally to the ground, a Victorian equivalent of “Google Earth.”

In the Preface to his volume, Ballantine notes the “unanimity of sentiment” that runs through the numerous celebrations, and indeed, the accounts in the Chronicle, as well as those published in the Illustrated London News and other venues do seem unanimous in their focus on Burns, the hardships he bore, and his indomitable spirit. Following a convention that had begun with Currie’s inclusion of the biography of Burns and his poetry, virtually all speeches emphasize Burns’s hard life and perseverance as a Scottish “peasant poet.”xi He is seen as a model rural labourer who arose from his “unlettered peasantry” to “open up a new and inexhaustible realm of fancy and sentiment—a new and bright creation which the sons of toil have since enjoyed” (527). There are occasional allusions to his “errors” (261) or “jovial habits” (61), but the overwhelming sense is that these weaknesses were either a necessary accompaniment to his “genius and strength” (282) or an opportunity for the current audiences to learn a “lesson of charity” to forgive rather than to “pass too severe a sentence” (282) on “Rantin, Rovin Robin.”

As well as demonstrating a “unanimity of sentiment” connecting events at diverse geographical locations, published accounts also reveal the material connections between participants in various venues, connections forged through bodies, material goods and information. These connections take two forms. On the one hand, a radial pattern unites places associated with Burns to outlying areas. Notably, Burns’s relatives and friends offered a point of contact with the Burnsian centre. William Nichol Burns attended the celebration at Dumfries, while James Glencairn Burns attended the Glasgow City Hall celebration and the daughter and grand-daughter of Robert Burns, Jr. honoured the Belfast celebration with their presence. Meanwhile, as far away as New York, people who knew Burns or people who knew people who knew Burns gained currency for the celebration they were attending by touting their connections, however tenuous.

Burns’s belongings also took to the road.


The New York celebration included “A piece of bark, elegantly framed, cut from a tree on Burns’s farm . . . a lock of Burns’s hair, and an impression of his seal” (43). The Boston celebration featured “a haggis, made for the occasion in the cottage in which Burns was born” (550-51).

Ballantine’s Chronicle also indicates a less centralized network, however, as peripheral groups form connections together. Joseph Howe of Nova Scotia attended the celebration in Boston, A. M’Alpin of Cincinnati found his way to New Orleans for the occasion, and Mr. H. Fuller editor of the New York Mirror crossed the Atlantic to join the celebration in Dumfries. If connections could not be conveyed in person, they were conveyed by letter or by the new technology of the time: the telegraph.


The Burns Club of Montreal, for example, sent a “telegraphic dispatch” to the Burns Club of New Orleans, asking to be “remembered in your festivities tonight; though distance divides us, we are animated by the same spirit, reverence and pride for and in the name of Burns, and love to bonnie Scotland! Please reply.” The event in London, Canada West included the reading of a telegraph received from Hamilton: ‘We are getting on finely. How’s a’ wi’ ye’. London’s reply was also read out – ‘Gaylies brawlies. Thanks to ye for speerin’. ‘Telegraphic greetings’ were also shared from ‘Brockville, Kingston, Quebec, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Prescott’, while, in keeping with the dominant medium, the band played the ‘Telegraphic Gallop’.3 The 1859 Centenary was indeed a celebration of modern global connection.

Part 3. Burns as “exception”

But I would like to suggest that the Centenary represented different forces at play than just a uniformity of sentiment and connections made possible through new technologies. In fact, as I will argue, it represented a complex interaction and collision of local, national, imperial and – most importantly for purposes of this paper -- transatlantic interests. In Virtual Americas, Paul Giles raises the notion of an “ideology of exchange” from which “estranged perspectives on particular cultures can appear at their most rewarding.”xii America, he suggests, “introduces an element of strangeness into British culture, just as British traditions, often in weirdly hollowed out or parodic forms, shadow the democratic designs of the American republic.”xiii In the case of the Burns Centenary, this “element of strangeness” is rendered even stranger as it also involves not just America and Britain, but also the particularities of the estrangement between Scotland and England and between the United States and Canada.xiv It is an estrangement that suggests at once how the identity of transatlantic nations is established through the process of both incorporating and rejecting a “foreign” British element and how the “borders” of what defines Britishness are made “permeable to the reciprocal flow of cultures.”xv Moreover, the celebrations of the Burns centenary in locales across the Atlantic reveal how the uses of global connectivity differ according to specific local conditions. A man’s a man, it would seem, but a different man depending on where he resides.

The Centenary was celebrated, if one were to judge by the sheer number of celebrations, most enthusiastically in Scotland. The Illustrated London News notes, “few were the towns [in Scotland] that did not make centenary demonstrations to their national poet.”xvi Numerous Scottish cities and villages declared January 25, 1859 a holiday as they prepared to honour the man who, more than any other, had been “instrumental in nurturing the love of country and maintaining the national spirit and honour” (77). The adoration of Burns as “the glorious representative of the genius of his people” (Ballantine 246) and the “personification of the genius and glory of his country” (London News 115) suggest what Susan Manning has referred to as a “model of complicity, where literary texts”—and in this case, a literary figure—“are deployed to shore up and enforce a national image.”xvii

But the Centenary celebrations also suggest the way that Burns proved useful in the articulation of an imperial identity. The Illustrated London News indicated that, “Though Scotland, as was to be expected, was more fervent in the expression of her loyalty and affection to the name of her illustrious son, the English people were not wanting in due appreciation of his genius or in sympathy for the national feeling which prompted the celebration.” Many speeches presented at the Centenary elide Burns’s Scottishness into a celebration of Britishness. In Glasgow’s City Hall event, Burns’s works are praised as forming “an unseen bond which will for ever unite Britons and their children in every part of the world,” while “Auld Langsyne” is tasked with “hold[ing] together the wide-spread descendants of the British empire” (43). At the Belfast Music-Hall celebration, Hugh M’Call effused that, “there is not a spot of earth trod by Saxon or Celt—not a country or clime inhabited by men with British hearts and sympathies—that will not enjoy its own peculiar burst of enthusiasm” on this occasion (498). In M’Call’s speech, Burns is the national poet not of Scotland, but of the “United Kingdom,” which, he suggests, “in the wise dispensation of Providence” has “been set apart as the great colonizer of the world, sending forth its industry and energy, its language and its literature from one end of the universe to the other, and carrying its national habits to the remotest regions of the earth” (499). Burns is described as a “public benefactor, and public property”; he is “not only a man of Scotland—not only a native of Great Britain, but a cosmopolitan—a man of the world—the poet of all countries and of all times” (536-37).xviii


The biggest celebration of Burns outside of Scotland took place in the metropolitan centre of empire, London, at the Crystal Palace with roughly 15,000 people in attendance. A contest for the best poem about Burns had been organized for the event, and the winning entry, by one Miss Isa Craigs, was announced and read aloud. Relics of Burns were also placed on display for participants to view: the Naysmith portrait, the Taylor portrait, a lock of Burns’s and Jean Armour’s hair, Burns’s writing table, a rough draft of one of his ballads, and “pages from his account book, in which the gains of his earlier works were carefully summed up.”xix


I would like to consider this display of Burns a little more carefully, taking into account the particular way in which he is performed in the nation’s capitol. For one thing, his display accrues additional meaning when we recall that the Crystal Palace, a vast glass structure encompassing 70,000 square metres of land, had actually been built to house that first of all Victorian “spectacles” of colonial power,xx the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations held in 1851. If the Great Exhibition had the effect of reducing national cultures “to the products and materials they exhibited,” as Kylie Message argues, xxi the exhibition of Burns eight years later fulfills a similar function, reducing Scotland and Scottish identity to a recognizable object that could be consumed in the imperial metropolis. Appropriately, the Illustrated London News indicated that the Burns celebration at the Crystal Palace had “all the crowd and bustle of a fair, the illusion being further strengthened by the stall with which the nave was lined, and all of which offered for sale appropriate little souvenirs of the poet. On one . . . might be had a complete edition of his works; and on another neat little busts, in parian, of Burns.”xxii The Burns industry, it would seem, was in full swing.

But the Crystal Palace display also suggests a more complicated rendering of Burns and Scotland than just simple incorporation. The crowning glory of the day was the revelation of a Burns bust “of heroic proportions . . . having a column and a pedestal to itself” which “occupied a distinguished central position in front of the court.”xxiii The bust of Burns is in the centre of the room, surrounded by busts of earlier poets who had been influential on him. Burns towers over his predecessors, and the arrangement suggests both the ways in which he is circumscribed and defined in relation to them – and the way in which stands out from them. In the Crystal Palace celebration, Burns is built visually into the “collective subject” of Britain, but not as a “highlight” of the chronological development of a British canon. Rather, he is constituted as a remarkable exception. Numerous speeches during the centenary further illuminate Burns’s exceptional relationship to canonical English writers. Addressing the Belfast Music Hall celebration, Professor Craik tells the tale of a “mendicant poetess” who accosts his literary friend in London and asserts the importance of Burns: “there’s plenty o’ your book poets—Pope, and Milton, and Cammell, and sic like: but Burns and me, ye see, we’re pure nature” (496). Burns stands out as a poet of “pure nature,” of vernacular speakers, of cultural mendicants in a circle of “book poets.” Burns occupies an ambivalent place, then, as a figure who represents both “a heightened articulation of geopolitical location” and the incorporation of that location in the process of imperial expansion.

Part 4. Burns Across the Atlantic

It is precisely this unstable position that Burns occupied as symbol of both local insistence and global incorporation that made him most valuable in the Centenary celebrations across the Atlantic. The 1859 Burns celebrations provided a perfect opportunity for the display of the concentric identities that were in the process of being formed and reformed in the British North American provinces and in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century.

In the British North American territories, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and recently united Canadas, Burns served as a figure who helped to connect the inhabitants to the larger British project of empire at the same time as suggesting the vitality of the local place. The celebration in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for example, began with a toast to “The Queen—reigning in the affections of a free and loyal people, and ruling over the most extensive and powerful empire the world has ever seen” (8-9). The speaker went on to congratulate the Queen on her recent colonial acquisition: “The calm and almost severe simplicity with which our Queen has assumed the empire of India, and of more than a hundred millions of human beings, has something in it approaching to the sublime” (9). In the Haligonian context, Burns becomes an example how someone from a geographically marginal location can have a wider influence: “Such was the case with Burns, and such I hope may be the case with many of the inhabitants of this Province.” In fact, the speaker goes on to argue, perhaps Burns has already had an influence on the men “whose names will be illustrious of History” whom Nova Scotia has already given “to the world”: “Who can tell the effect, who can judge the influence which the history of a man like Burns has exerted upon these men? Who can say what a contemplation of his untiring assiduity may lead the sons of Nova Scotia to achieve in the future? (Cheers.)”

At the celebrations in Toronto in Canada West, too, Burns did double duty as a marker of imperial loyalty and of local assertion. At the Rossin House celebration, the speaker commented that “the songs of Burns are already a part of the living language of our common race” and noted the connection between the gathering “on a spot hewn in our own day out of the old savage-haunted pines of Ontario’s wooded shores” and gatherings held “wherever the free banner of England floats on the breeze” (Ballantine 542). But this celebration in this “distant nook of Britain’s world-wide empire” (543) also becomes an opportunity to promote Canadian culture and institutions. Alexander MacLachlan read some of his own poetry. Toasts were made to “The Bench and Bar of Canada,” the “Universities and Schools” of Canada, “The Canadian Institutions and the Scientific Associations of Canada.” The toast to “The Mother Country” began with the hope that “her Canadian sons” may “prove worthy of their sires,” but shifted to protest, “But why should they prove unworthy of their sires” and to indicate the benefits that living in Canada entails. A toast to “The City of Toronto” became an opportunity to ridicule the empire’s notion of it outlying areas, as the speaker humorously quotes Bell’s Gazeteer’s entry for Toronto which reads: “Toronto, a town in Upper Canada, with one hundred wooden houses, and eight thousand inhabitants” (545). The response by the audience in their elegant surroundings was, not surprisingly: “(Laughter).” More pointedly, at the St. Lawrence Hall down the road, one of the keynote speakers invited by Burns Club President Donald Ross was the radical reformer William Lyon Mackenzie King, a Scottish emigrant who had founded the reformist newspaper The Colonial Advocate in 1824 and then spearheaded the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837. Also in attendance on the platform – apparently decorated tastefully for the occasion with Union Jacks--was Thomas D’Arcy M’Gee, who had been outlawed by the British government for his part in the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848 before emigrating to the United States and then Canada. In the British Provinces in North America then, Burns celebrations, while acknowledging a connection to the “Mother Nation,” also provided opportunities to promote British North American culture and political interests.

In the United States, on the other hand, Burns was refracted as a spokesperson for the republican ideals on which the American constitution was formed.


Carol McGuirk and Robert Crawford have drawn critical attention to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s speech on Burns delivered at the Centenary celebration held at the Parker House in Boston, Massachusetts. xxiv In his oration, Emerson lauded Burns as a “the poet of the middle class” who “represents in the mind of men to-day that great uprising of the middle class against the armed and privileged minorities—that uprising which worked politically in the American and French Revolutions, and which, not in governments, so much as in education and in social order, has changed the face of the world.” In addition, he asserted that, “The ‘Confession of Augsburg,’ the ‘Declaration of Independence,’ the French ‘Rights of Man,’ and the ‘Marseillaise,’ are not more weighty documents in the history of freedom than the songs of Burns” (551). What gets neglected in the focus on Emerson’s response, however, is the context of his speech—which is held at the prestigious Parker House Hotel – and the fact that he was neither the first nor the only American commentator to hazard such a comparison. The Boston Burns Club, which sponsored the Parker House celebration, enshrined in its constitution written nine years earlier, the fact that Burns represented “Liberty—American liberty!” (Boston, 6) and averred, “Enjoying as we do the full advantages of that liberty of speech and action he was fated to see but partly established, our admiration of their benefits will always be enhanced by associating ourselves with the name of one of their boldest and ablest promoters” (6). At the celebration in Cleveland, Ohio, Bayard Taylor, the same Bayard Taylor who had been present at the Ayr Festival, recalled the time Burns refused to drink the health of William Pitt, preferring to toast instead ‘a far greater man than Pitt, Washington” (568). A speaker at the New York Centenary celebration expressed almost identical sentiments to Emerson’s in declaiming that, “His famous song, ‘A Man’s a Man for a’ that,” is the Declaration of Independence set to music” (NY 74). For American, Burns was a founding father.

Burns celebrations in the United States were used as an excuse to showcase national cultural and literary efforts, too. Anyone who was anyone in literary circles appeared at the celebrations.


William Cullen Bryant and Fitz-Greene Halleck gave orations at the New York celebration. A participant in the Boston celebration noted, “As the home and headquarters of so many American poets, the voice of poetry was not wanting on this occasion to do honour to the memory of the Scottish Bard, and no fewer than four original poems were read composed for the occasion, one by Oliver Wendell Holmes, two by Professor James Russell Lowell, and one by Mr. John G. Whittier” (552-53). If writers could not appear in person, then they sent their regrets that were then read out at the event, as was the case for Washington Irving, Henry W. Longfellow, Bayard Taylor and Dion Boucicault. In addition to the requisite toasts made to Burns and to Scottish Literature, there were also toasts to American Literature, American Poets, and the American Press. This use of Burns to promote American values and culture, is, of course, complicated. While he is being used to suggest a fundamental separation between the United States and Britain, that separation is expressed in terms which suggest the close relationship between the two. A speaker at the Cincinnati, for example, indicates America’s dependence on Burns: “in making him anew our symbol of Poetry and Genius, we best aid the love of song and natural talent in this our great Republic” (567).

On the other hand, Burns’s unusual position within the British canon (as we saw embodied in the Crystal Palace display) made him an appropriate model for a nation whose identity was based on a myth of exceptionalism. By identifying with Burns, Americans were able to further stake out their singular position in relation to their British predecessors. Thomas Fraser, whose poem on Burns won the Burns Club of Baltimore’s contest—which was itself a translation of the contest organized by the Directors of the Crystal Palace-- suggests the consequences of translating Burns to North American soil:

Dear bonny Doon, clear gurglin’ Ayr,
Pure Afton an’ the Lugar fair,
Can claim his sangs their ain nae mair,
Sin’ lang years syne,
Braw Hudson an’ thrang Delaware
Kenn’d every line!

America is styled here as the New World recipient not only of Burns’s republican values, but also of his celebration of his own locality.

The Burns celebrations in America also suggested the fissures beneath the surface of the supposedly United States, fissures that would erupt in a bloody civil war two years later. In the northeastern states, Burns is used to rally support for the fight against slavery. In New York, a speaker uses Burns for an abolitionist message, denouncing the idea that he would have actually have gone “to Jamaica as an overseer of a plantation”: “I think I see Robert Burns following a gang of slaves, an chanting ‘A man’s a man for a’ that.” Poor Burns was in a very bad way, but he was not as bad as that” (580). Similarly, at the meeting in the Revere House in Boston, a Mr. John Wilson asserted, “His was not the maxim, ‘My country, right or wrong!”—his, not the feeling which would laud a declaration of independence, without applying its ground-truths to all, irrespective of their condition, their colour, or their clime” (556). (Ironically, in South Carolina, later to be the first state to secede from the Union, and the site of the first military hostilities that heralded Civil War, the contention between the Stuarts and Hanoverians in Burns’s time is used as an indicator of the distance of the “days of trouble” from the present.)


In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the occasion of Burns’s centenary also became an opportunity to promote American “manifest destiny” and promote the expansion of the Western frontier: “Heaven, in mercy, gave to man this Western Continent . . . that he might try to lift up the whole human family; and he has lifted up this portion of the family, high on the hills of science, of art, of practical freedom, of unrivalled prosperity, and resistless progress, until we hear the distant voices of the nations, far down in the vallies below, calling to us for a helping hand, to lift them up to our American level” (21).xxv Clearly, here it is not just Burns’s relationship to local but also to imperial interests which is being invoked.

Given the impulse to reinvent Burns on the other side of the Atlantic, it is not surprising, perhaps, to find out that the idea for the international Burns celebration actually originated in North America—in New York. Although this fact is not mentioned in Ballantine’s Chronicle, and even Emerson seems to have been vague about the origin of the connected celebrations, the Illustrated London News for 29 January, 1859 asserts that it is in America that, “the idea of the Centenary seems to have originated, and afterwards in the British Isles, where it was taken up as soon as suggested” (98). The Centennial Birth-Day of Robert Burns as Celebrated by the Burns Club of New York confirms this, stating that the notion of a global celebration originated with the New York club “several months previous to the close of the year 1858.” In October, 1858, the New York Club sent a circular out to “kindred associations in the cities of Great Britain, the United States and the British Provinces.” The circular reads like a nineteenth-century equivalent of the instructions for “Global Burns Hosts” requesting recipients to “make arrangements . . . for such co-operation as may be practicable for the purpose of giving united expression to those sentiments of reverence for the memory and admiration for the genius of the Poet of Humanity, which, while especially natural and becoming to his countrymen, find an echo and sympathy in the hearts of the people of America, and of every civilized nation” (9-10). In particular, this global celebration of Burns seems to have been designed to highlight New York’s growing role as the “chief city of the Western Hemisphere.” If the Scotland had produced the original Burns, then the Americans set out to produce global Burns.

Part 5: Conclusion

To conclude: I have been exploring tonight how Burns’s unstable position as I have called it, proved useful in constructing the varied kinds of identities being negotiated in the British North American provinces and in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Paul Giles suggests that, focusing on “the various crossovers between British and American literature might engender double-edged discourses liable to destabilize traditional hierarchies and power relations, thereby illuminating the epistemological boundaries of both national cultures” (5). Focusing on the Burns centenary from a transatlantic perspective helps destabilize “traditional hierarchies and power rends of insistences—local, transatlantic and imperial.

Finally, I suggest that examining the transatlantic relocations of Burns also reveals a change in the nature of how Burns was understood and consumed in the process of going global. The Centenary celebrations both in Britain and across the ocean in North America effected a fundamental change in the nature of how Burns was understood and consumed after 1859. For what is striking in all the events is the degree of simulation involved, simulation which draws on both old and new technologies. We have already considered the display of Burns in London and the dispersal of Burnsian relics. But equally important are the representations of Burns at those locations which lacked actual objects connected with the poet so made do with artificial replication. At Belleville, Canada West, for example, a replica of Burns’s cottage made of Canadian fir boughs was ‘mounted on runners’ for the ‘special feature of the day’: ‘a sleigh ride’ with ‘over sixty sleighs’. In Ottawa, Burns is made to loom large over the whole city: ‘The entire range of windows fronting on Sussex and George Streets were brilliantly illuminated, and on the front of the building were placed three transparencies, one being a well-executed full-length portrait of the immortal bard’.4 The Mechanics’ Hall celebration at Canada West also included ‘a transparency’ of a stanza of Burns’s famous poem, ‘A Man’s A Man’. Both the man and his words, then, were metonymically relocated to new venues. Such relocations and recontextualizations suggest a process of virtualization, a process that Pierre Levy identifould be erroneous to speak of the pre-1859 Burns as constituting a clear ‘center of ontological gravity’, an original representations of Burns. Significantly, many of the speeches held on 25 January 1859 liken Burns to the ‘electric fluid’ running along the telegraph cable.6 At Glasgow’s City Hall celebration, for example, one speaker suggested that the ‘songs of Burns are the electric sparks which flash along’ the telegraph cable, while, similarly, the Chairman of the New Orleans celebration effused, ‘The electric flash blends our feelings in one current, as the magic songs of Burns unite the hearts of his countrymen throughout the world’.7 The 1859 Centenary rocketed Burns into modernity as both an object and a technology of global connection. The 2009 virtual worldwide “World Famous Burns Supper,” it would appear, was building on an idea that had begun 150 years earlier.


1Carol McGuirk suggests that the centenary was ‘the point at which the transformation of Burns from controversial literary celebrity into ‘immortal memory’ seems to have been completed’ (‘Burns and Nostalgia’, in Burns Now, ed. Kenneth Simpson [Edinburgh, 1994], pp. 31–69 [p. 32]).

2Paul Giles, Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary (Durham, NC, 2002), p. 11. Specifically, he suggests that, ‘conceptions of national identity on both sides of the Atlantic emerged through engagement with – and, often, deliberate exclusion of – a transatlantic imaginary, by which I mean the interiorization of a literal or metaphorical Atlantic world in all of its expansive dimensions’ (p. 11).

3Ibid., pp.522, 573 and 532.

4Chronicle, Ballantine (ed.), pp. 512, 532.

5Pierre Levy, Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Digital Age, trans. Robert Bononno (New York and London, 1998), p. 26.

6Chronicle, Ballantine (ed.), p. 536.

7Ibid., p. 573.

iAlex Tyrrell, “Paternalism, Public Memory and National Identity in Early Victorian Scotland: the Robert Burns Festival at Ayr in 1844,” 43.

iiStanzas by Delta

iiiBayard Taylor

ivQuoted in The Knickerbocker, or New York Monthly Magazine, Vol 24, October 1844, 386.

vBallantine, 551


viiRigney note4s, In the process, they brought into play a unique temporal mixture, arguably absent from other modes of memorialisation, in which people celebrated future memories, historical affiliations and, last but not least: present-day bonding. For as the name suggests, co-memoration is above all a matter of remembering together: at the same time, often in the same place, and focussed on a common theme.

viiiThe Preface points out to the reader the difficulty of such a task, remarking on, “The extent and variety of the materials necessary to chronicle the incidents of such a day” (v). Although he must have had a network of correspondents who sent him newspaper clippings and reports from various national and international venues, Ballantine is silent about the actual mechanisms through which he received his information. Rather, he presents the orations and notes to the reader as if from an omniscient source, a fact that serves to emphasize the simultaneity and connectedness of all the events.

ixJames Ballantine, (Edinburgh and London: Fullarton and Co., 1859), v-vi

xIn its information on “Great Britain”’s Burns celebration, the NY Times announced that it had information from Britain sent Jan. 26 by mails on the Indian reached Portland the evening before they published it on February 17, 1859, Wednesday.

xi-extolling the peasantry of Scotland during a time when the working class of England was a troubling focus

-irony that Marx’s treatise on political science was published the same year as the centenary celebrations took place

-Alex Tyrrell suggests, in the context of the Ayr Festival, that “In life Robert Burns had been a radical; in death he would be the potent symbol of a Scotland that was resitant to the values of Whiggism, Chartism and the Anti-Corn League” (50).

“aristocratic paternalism” 52

xivThey also suggest the way that established notions of the relation between literature and national and imperial identity are put into question when one a representative figure from one culture is relocated across the Atlantic.

xvManning and Taylor, Introduction, What Is Transatlantic Literary Studies? 2

xvi106 The “business of [Dumfries] was entirely suspended,” and “At Edinburgh the day was kept as a general holiday” (106) in order to celebrate Burns.

xviiIntroduction, What Is Transatlantic Literary Studies? 1 But the case of Burns also presents a logical circularity which gestures toward the complications and inconsistencies in the use of literature as a marker of national identity. What makes Burns so representative of his nation, it seems, is his ability to accurately represent what is around him: “His mind was indeed a gigantic mirror, in which was reflected not only all surrounding objects, but in which every Scotchman could behold his own character and trace his own history” (197). But other comments indicate that what makes the landscape and people of Scotland “thoroughly and intensely Scotch” is the fact that they mirror Burns: “his memory . . . is inscribed on every feature of natural scenery, and associated with every phase of domestic life . . . our breezes whisper, and our rocks repeat, all nature echoes, and the heart of man owns it with a responsive throb” (4). Such a reflexive model ultimately becomes ***cf David Lloyd

Such a reflexive model illuminates the relationship between nation and literature at the same time as it reveals the arbitrary nature of that identification.

xviii-See Fiona Stafford on this

Phen Cheah: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation The Cosmopolitical Today “the relationship between cosmopolitanism and nationalism has fluctuated between varying degrees of alliance and opposition and that both discourses have progressive as well as reactionary dimensions” 30

The ethico-political work that nationalism and cosmopolitanism can do at any given moment depends on how either formation emerges from or is inscribed within the shifting material linkages and interconnections created by global capitalism at a particular historical conjuncture” 311

-an early example of what Kwame Anthony Appiah calls a “cosmopolitan patriot” (“Cosmopolitan Patriots” in Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, 91-116

In The British Eighteenth Century and Post-Colonial Critique Clement Hawes uses the word “cosmopolitan nationalism” to express a similar idea

xixFeb. 5, 137.

xxColonialism: An International, Social, Cultural and

xxiof argues that the Great Exhibition had the effect of consolidating a British national identity: “English visitors to the Great Exhibition came to identify more consciously and proudly with the national entity or polity of Britain than before and less on the local province or rural community in which they resided.” Kylie Message, “New Museums and the Making of Culture,” (Oxford: Berg, 2006), 86. “Through the improved technologies of visuality, nation became a less abstract concept. Put on display for public consumption, material symbols of nation were differentiated against those of other countries” (86). See also Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851: a nation on display

xxiiFeb. 5, 137.

xxiiiFeb. 5, 137.

xxivIn her excellent essay, “Haunted by Authority: Nineteenth-Century American Constructions of Robert Burns and Scotland,” Carol McGuirk calls attention to

xxv“So, when I speak of the ‘American people,’ you shall see the fountains of the nations breaking up; the Celtic and Sclavonic, the Germanic and Gallic, the Norman and Dane, the hobble Gaelic and glorious Anglo-Saxon, each pouring out their kindred streams, . . and bearing, by a common destiny, into this great trans-Atlantic basic, the mingled tides of civilization and liberty, glory and power” (22) This daring to try rules over the Western Hemisphere, like the wing of a mighty destiny”

Editor’s note: Here is a very impressive curriculum vitae about Dr. Davis, followed by some information about Simon Fraser University. Enjoy!

Leith Davis
Department of English
Simon Fraser University


PERSONAL: Married with three children


PhD: University of California, Berkeley (1990)

Dissertation: "Scotland and the Politics of Romanticism: The Representative Fictions of James Macpherson, Robert Burns, and Walter Scott"

Supervisor: David Lloyd; Readers: Carol Christ, Paul Thomas

MA: University of California, Berkeley (1988)
BA Honours: University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon (1983)
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Print Culture; Romanticism; 18th- and Early 19th- Century Scottish and Irish Literature; Robert Burns; Nationalism and Literature; Folk Music.
Other Areas of Interest: Globalization; Postcolonial Studies.
Acts of Union: Scotland and the Literary Negotiation of the British Nation, 1707-1830. Stanford University Press, 1998. 212 pp.
Music, Postcolonialism, Gender: The Construction of Irish Identity, 1707-1855. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005). 323 pp.
Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism. Ed. Leith Davis, Ian Duncan and Janet Sorensen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). 260 pp.
PUBLISHED ARTICLES : ([R] denotes refereed journal)
"Sequels of Resistance: Edward Bunting's Ancient Irish Melodies and the Irish Nation," Nineteenth-Century Contexts Vol. 23 (2001): 29-57. (R)
"From Fingal's Harp to Flora's Song: Scotland, Music and Romanticism," The Wordsworth Circle (Spring, 2000), 93-97. (R)
"Gender and the Nation in the Work of Robert Burns and Janet Little," Studies in English Literature (Autumn, 1998), 621-645. (R)
"The Politics of Hypochondriasis: James Currie's Works of Robert Burns," Studies in Romanticism, 32 (Spring, 1997), 43-60. (R)
"`Bounded to a District Space': Burns, Wordsworth and the Margins of English Literature," English Studies in Canada 20:1 (March, 1994), 23-40. (R)
"Birth of the Nation: Gender and Writing in the Work of Henry and Charlotte Brooke," Eighteenth-Century Life 18:1 (February, 1994), 27-47. (R)
"Irish Bards and English Consumers: Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies and the Colonized Nation," ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 24:2 (April, 1993), 7-25. (R)
"Origins of the Specious: James Macpherson's Ossian and the Forging of the British Empire, The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 34:2 (1993), 132-150. (R)

"Revising the Popular: Charlotte Brooke's Reliques of Irish Poetry" in Romanticism and Popular Culture: Britain and Ireland 1780-1840, ed. Phillip Connell and Nigel Leask. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

"Orality and Public Poetry, 1707-1918" (with Maureen McLane), Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature. Vol. 2. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2006. 125-132.
"'Coming to the Past': Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief and Scottish Diasporic Identity in a Post-Devolution Era," in Culture, Nation and the New Scottish Parliament. Ed. Caroline McCracken-Flescher. Lewisburgh: Bucknell University Press, 2006.
"At 'Sang About': Scottish Song and the Challenge to British Culture," Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism. Ed. Leith Davis, Ian Duncan and Janet Sorensen. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
 "Re-Presenting Scotia: Robert Burns and the Imagined Community of Scotland," in Robert Burns, ed. Carol McGuirk. NY: G.K. Hall, 1998.

"Isolating the “Light of Song”: Vincentia Rodgers’s Cluthan and Malvina," Irish Women Poets of the Romantic Era, ed. Stephen Behrendt, Alexander Street Press, <>
"Ellen Taylor and the Politics of Affect," Irish Women Poets of the Romantic Era, ed. Stephen Behrendt, Alexander Street Press, <>
"Negotiating Irishness: Charlotte Brooke’s Reliques of Irish Poetry," Irish Women Poets of the Romantic Era, ed. Stephen Behrendt, Alexander Street Press, <>

"Gender, Genre and the Imagining of the Scottish Nation: the Songs of Lady Nairne," Scottish Women Poets of the Romantic Era, ed. Stephen Behrendt and Nancy Kushigian. Alexander Street Press. <>  (2002)
"Nation and Translation: Margaret Turner Re(-)covers Allan Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd." Scottish Women Poets of the Romantic Era. Ed. Stephen Behrendt and Nancy Kushigian. Alexander Street Press. <>  (2002)
"Irish Bards and English Consumers: Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies and the Colonized Nation," Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism, Volume 110. Ed. Edna Hedblad. NY: Gale, 2002.
"James Currie," Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 142: Eighteenth-Century British Literary Biographers, 61-68.
Janet Sorensen, The Grammar of Empire in Eighteenth-Century British Writing for Studies in Romanticism 42:1 (Fall, 2003), 401-5.
Mary Jean Corbett, Allegories of Union in Irish and English Writing, 1790-1870 forVictorian Studies 44:4 (Summer, 2002), 684-686.
Ciarán Carson, Last Night's Fun; Marie McCarthy, Passing It On: The Transmission of Music In Irish ; Fintan Vallely, ed., The Companion to Irish Traditional Music; Harry White, The Keeper's Recital: Music and Cultural History in Ireland, 1770-1970 for Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal (Winter/Spring, 2001).
Murray Pittock, Scottish Nationality for Eighteenth-Century Scotland (Spring, 2002). 22-23.
Robert Crawford, Burns and Cultural Authority for Criticism 41:1 (1999)
Studies in Scottish Literature: Special Robert Burns Issue for Eighteenth-Century Scotland 13 (Spring, 1999).
Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire for Scottish Literary Journal (1999).
Howard Gaskill, Poems of Ossian. for Scottish Literary Journal (1997).
Murray Pittock, The Invention of Scotland: The Stuart Myth and the Scottish Identity, 1638 to the Present. In Eighteenth-Century Scotland 7 (Spring, 1993)

“Robert Burns in a Transatlantic Context,” SFU Harbour Centre (April, 2009)
"A Celebration of Scottish Music and Song," SFU Harbour Centre (March, 2001)
" Culture, Community and Nation: Scotland at Home and Abroad" Conference, SFU Harbour Centre (March, 2000) (Co-organized with Steve Duguid of Humanties)

“Mapping Burns in Transatlantic Culture,” Robert Burns, 1759-2009, University of Glasgow, January, 2009.

"Scotland, Print Culture, and Transnational Identity in Britain after 1688: The Case of James Macpherson," Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 2007. .
"Nation and Notation: Irish Music, British Culture and the Transatlantic Experience, 1830-1874," "Brave New Wor[l]ds: Rethinking National Consciousness," Graduate Student Conference, Simon Fraser University, September 18-20.


"Diverse Subjects: Scotland and Transnational Identity in the Long Romantic Era," North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (Toronto, Ontario), August, 2008.
“’Rules of Art’: The Life of Burns on Page and Stage, 1786-1954,” Royal Society of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, January, 2009.
"Remediating Irish Song: Charlotte Brooke's Reliques of Irish Poetry," Multi-lingual Radical Popular Poetry and Song in the United British Isles (Queen's University, Belfast), November 2008.

"“Blame not the Bard”: Thomas Moore, the Irish Melodies and the Politics of Print Culture," "Medium Cool Romanticism: Audiovision circa 1800," University of California at Berkeley, April, 2005. (unable to attend in person because of death in immediate family; paper read and powerpoint slides presented by colleague)
“Irish Music and British Culture,” Politics of Print Culture conference, Carleton University (July, 2004)
“Irish Music, Print, and the Gendering of Diasporic Culture,” Print and Book Culture Conference, Humanities and Social Science Congress, Winnipeg, (June, 2004)
"Nation and Notation: Music and National Identity in Eighteenth-Century Ireland," paper delivered to the Institute of Advanced Studies in Humanities (Nov., 1997)
"A Man's a man: Gender and Nationalism in the Work of Robert Burns," International Burns Conference at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, (January, 1996).
"Defoe, Lord Belhaven and the Act of Union Debate," paper delivered at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, Scotland (November, 1993)
"Defoe and the Act of Union," paper delivered to the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanties, Edinburgh University (November, 1993)
"Origin of the Specious: James Macpherson and the Forging of the British Empire," Special Panel on Scottish Studies, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Seattle, Washington (March, 1992)

"Remediating Irish Song: Charlotte Brooke's Reliques of Irish Poetry," Centre for the Study of Print and Media Culture workshop, SFU, April 2008.

"Charlotte Brooke's Reliques of Irish Poetry and Irish Popular Song,” American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies, Portland, Oregon. March 2008.

"Mediating Popular Culture: Charlotte Brooke's Reliques of Irish Poetry," Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Winnipeg, Manitoba, October 2007.

"The Printer As Patriot: James Watson's Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems,” Canadian Association for the Study of Book Culture, Saskatoon, Sask;, May 2007.

"From Picts to Pixels: Scotland, Cyberspace and Global Technologies of Nostalgia," Scottish Romanticism and World Literature, University of California, Berkeley, September 2006.
"Articulating Scotland c. 1707: James Watson’s Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems and George Mackenzie’s Lives and Characters of the Most Eminent Writers of the Scots Nation," American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference, Montreal (April 2006)

 “Crossing Borders: Orality and Print in 18th-Century Scottish Song Collections," Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. University of British Columbia (October, 2003).
"Contesting the Spectacle of Colonialism: Irish Music and the Politics of Aurality in the Eighteenth-Century," Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. U. of Saskatchewan (October, 2001)
"Echoes of Resistance: Sidney Owenson's Twelve Original Hibernian Melodies and The Wild Irish Girl," Women in the Republic of Letters Conference, U. of Saskatchewan (October, 2000)
"Sidney Owenson, Gender and the Construction of the Nation," American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Philadelphia (March, 2000)
"Eighteenth-Century Scottish Music," Culture, Community and Nation: Scotland at Home and Abroad Conference, SFU Harbour Centre (March, 2000)
"From Fingal to Fingal's Cave: Scotland, Music and Romanticism," Modern Language Association Conference, Chicago (December, 1999)
"Gender, Music and the Nation in Sidney Owenson's Twelve Original Hibernian Melodies," International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Dublin, Ireland (July, 1999)
"Writing Woman/Rewriting Man: Charlotte Brooke's Revisions of Joseph Cooper Walker in the Reliques of Irish Poetry," American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Milwaukee, WI (March, 1999)
"Hailing the Hibernian Muse: Music, Print Culture and Irish National Identity," SHARP Conference, Vancouver, B.C. (July, 1998)
"Joseph Cooper Walker's Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards," ASECS Conference, Notre Dame, IN (April, 1998)
"N(ot)ational Generations: George Petrie's The Ancient Music of Ireland," British Association of Romantic Studies, Leeds, Engand (July, 1997)
"Culture and Violins: Music and National Identity in George Petrie's The Ancient Music of Ireland", Institute on Culture and Society, Corvallis (June, 1997)
"Nation and Notation: Turlough Carolan and the Commodification of Irish Identity in the Eighteenth Century", American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Nashville (April, 1997)
"Harping on the Past: Turlough Carolan and the Construction of Irish Nationalisms in the Eighteenth Century", Western Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Berkeley (February, 1997)
"Canonical Crossings: The Case of Felicia Hemans" (with Margaret Linley), North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, Boston (November, 1996)
"Nation and Notation: The Indeterminacies of National Identity in Edward Bunting's Ancient Irish Music" Eighteenth-Century Ireland Conference, Limerick, Ireland (May, 1996)
"Pretending Fictions: Henry Fielding, Tobias Smollett and the Rebellion of 1745," Conference on "Jacobitism and the 1745 Rebellion," organized by the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society and the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland (August, 1995)
"Talking Notes: Music, Nationalism and Edward Bunting's Ancient Irish Music" American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference, Tucson, Arizona (April, 1995).
"The Politics of Hypochondriasis: James Currie's Works of Robert Burns," Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (October, 1994).
"Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies and the Colonized Nation," British Association of Romantic Studies Conference, London, England (September, 1993)
"Gender, Genre and Writing the Nation: Henry Brooke's and Charlotte Brooke's Ireland," North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, London, Ontario (August, 1993)
"English Bards and Scots Reviewers: The Debate Between William Wordsworth and Francis Jeffrey," British Association of Romantic Studies Conference, Glasgow, Scotland (July, 1993)
"Acts of Union: Writing the Nation in 1707," Western Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference, Santa Barbara, California (February, 1993)
"Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies and the Deconstruction of the Irish Nation," Tri-Universities Conference, Victoria, B.C. (March 1992)
"Re-birth of a Nation: Female Patriotism and the Woman Writer in Charlotte Brooke's Reliques of Irish Poetry, Department of English Colloquium, Simon Fraser University (January, 1992)
"Bounded to a District Space: Robert Burns and the Borders of English Romantic Poetry," Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference, Calgary, Alberta (October, 1991)
"Harping on the Past: James Macpherson's and Thomas Moore's Re-presentations of National History," American Conference for Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana (October, 1991)
"Burns, Wordsworth and the Effects of Original Genius, " Department of English Colloquium, Simon Fraser University (January, 1991)
"James Macpherson and the Forging of the Nation," English Department Graduate Colloquium, University of Berkeley, California (December, 1989)
Organizer, "Writing (and) the Union: Textual Responses to 1800," Irish Caucus Panel, ASECS Conference, Philadelphia (April, 2000)
Organizer, "Music and National Identity in Ireland," International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Dublin, Ireland (July, 1999)
Organizer, "Print Culture on the Margins of Britain," SHARP Conference, Vancouver, B.C. (July, 1998)
1999-present: Associate Professor, Department of English, Simon Fraser University
1990-99: Assistant Professor, Department of English, Simon Fraser University
1984-1990: Teaching Assistant, University of California, Berkeley
2004: Social Science and Humanties Research Council of Canada Standard Research Grant ($ 50,283.00 including Research Time Stipend) for "Print Culture and Transnational identity in Britian and Ireland, 1700-1850" project.
2003: Social Science and Humanties Research Council of Canada Small Research Grant ($3,300) for "Rewriting Nostalgia" and Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature projects
2000: Social Science and Humanties Research Council of Canada Small Research Grant ($4,900) for "Scotland and the Boundaries of Romanticism" and "Scotland, Music and Romanticism" projects
1999: American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Irish-American Travel Grant; Special Award (US$600)  
1998: Publications Grant ($1,073), Simon Fraser University to prepare index for Acts of Union book
1998-2001: Social Science and Humanties Research Council of Canada Research Grant ($29,800) for "Nation and Notation" project
Fall, 1997: Research Fellowship, Institute of Advanced Studies in Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Great Britain (non-stipendary)
1997: Social Science and Humanties Research Council of Canada Small Grant ($4,999) for "Nation and Notation" project
1997: Social Science and Humanties Research Council of Canada North American Travel Grant ($500) for ASECS conference in Nashville
1993-96: Social Science and Humanties Research Council of Canada Research Grant ($45,000) for "Acts of Union" project
1991: President's Research Council Grant ($3,298) for preliminary research for "Acts of Union" project
1988: U.C. Berkeley Humanities Graduate Research Grant (US$1,000)
1986: U.C. Berkeley Humanities Graduate Research Grant (US$1,000)
1985: British Commonwealth Scholarship (declined)
1981-82: Rotary Undergraduate Scholarship

Editor’s Note: At the request of Professor Leith Davis, I an including some information on Simon Fraser University. Enjoy!

The Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University provides a focal point for faculty, students and members of the community interested in exploring Scottish history and culture and the relationship between Scotland and Canada.


What's Going On?

Centre for Scottish Studies Graduate Fellowship announced

The Centre for Scottish Studies is pleased to announce MICHAEL STRACHURA, a PhD student in the Department of English, as the first ever winner of the David and Mary Macaree Graduate Fellowship.  This fellowship for an MA or PhD student is made available through the generous donation of an endowment by the late Mary Macaree. Click here for more details and the Terms of Reference.  

2010 Series of Talks to Focus on Scottish Writers and Their Books 

 Everyone knows Robert Burns and Walter Scott and their important contributions to literature in Scotland and throughout the world.  But there are many other Scottish literary figures who also have a claim to global fame.  This year, the Centre for Scottish Studies presents a series of public talks focusing on lesser-studied writers.  Our St. Andrews and Caledonian lecture this year is by Dr. Rick Sher, whose recent book, The Enlightenment and the Book, has re-examined the whole issue of authorship by considering the relationship between writers and their publishers in the eighteenth century.

 John Knox, Writer”: 7:00-8:30, Thursday, September 30, 2010: Room 7000, SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings Street.  

John Knox (c. 1514-72) was the “author” of the Scottish Reformation in a double sense of the word:  as the spiritual leader of the Protestant movement and as the author of an historical narrative which came to be regarded, albeit on partisan grounds, as the definitive account of Scotland's change in religion.  Dr. Niall MacKenzie will talk about the artistic properties of Knox's History of the Reformation in Scotland, the circumstances surrounding its composition, and its influence.

The Other Scottish Bard: The Fascinating Life and Remarkable Works of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd”: 7:00-8:30, Thursday, October 28, 2010: Room 2050, SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings Street.  

James Hogg (c. 1770–1835), the Ettrick Shepherd, lied about his date of birth so that he could claim to be born on the same day as the ploughman-poet Robert Burns, with whom he felt a deep connection. First a cow-herd and eventually a shepherd, James Hogg – a man of little education and very limited means – refused to abandon his dreams to become a writer, literally walking from Ettrick to Edinburgh in his forties to fulfill his dream to become the new Bard of Scotland. Though he first shaped himself in Burns’s image as a “peasant-poet,” he fought to move beyond this limiting stereotype, eventually publishing a periodical, short fiction, novels, plays, sermons, journal articles, songs, and more. By the end of his life, Hogg had been recognized as a literary celebrity by the writing and publishing world not only in Edinburgh, but also in London.  Dr. Holly Nelson explores how the Ettrick Shepherd managed to achieve this astonishing feat– and how Sir Walter Scott helped him along the way. 

 St. Andrews and Caledonian Society Lecture:

William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine: An International Scottish Best-Seller”: 7:00-8:30, Thursday, November 25, 2010: Room 1420, SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings Street.  

For nearly a century after its initial publication in Edinburgh in 1769, Domestic Medicine, by the Scottish physician William Buchan, was by far the most popular home health guide in Britain and North America. Families passed it down from generation to generation, and some of them are reputed to have organized their lives around its teachings. Yet precisely because Domestic Medicine empowered ordinary people to make their own decisions about medical matters, it placed Buchan into a confrontational relationship with some members of the medical profession. At the same time, the book’s extraordinary commercial success, coupled with Buchan’s desperate circumstances, created tensions between the author and his publishers. In this illustrated lecture, Dr. Richard B. Sher uses the methodology of book history to achieve new insight into these issues.

Dr. Sher is Distinguished Professor of History in the Federated History Department of New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, Newark. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is the author of Church and University in the Scottish Enlightenment: The Moderate Literati of Edinburgh (Princeton University Press, 1985) and, more recently, The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland and America (University of Chicago Press, 2006).   

"Robert Burns in a Transatlantic Context"

In 2009, the Centre for Scottish Studies held the first ever conference to investigate the impact of Robert Burns in the Americas. Click here for more information.  A volume of essays written for the event is forthcoming with Ashgate Press.  

Return to our Burns Page  |  Return to Robert Burns Lives! Page


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