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Robert Burns Conference to be held in Columbia, South Carolina

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

It is with great joy that I bring you the announcement below regarding a Robert Burns Conference to be held in Columbia, South Carolina, to celebrate the 250th birthday of our Scottish National Poet. With major celebrations planned around the globe, and particularly in Scotland, this conference is expected to be the major Burns event in North America. A word to the wise, make your hotel reservations now. Do not be left out in the cold. All the information you need is contained in this announcement by Dr. Patrick Scott, the conference coordinator.

Contemporaries, Contexts & Cultural Forms
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC, USA
Thursday April 2-Saturday April 4, 2009

To celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns (1759-1796), the University of South Carolina is hosting “Robert Burns: Contemporaries, Contexts & Cultural Forms,” a multi-disciplinary international conference now scheduled for Thursday, April 2 – Saturday, April 4, 2009.  We expect this to be the major event in North America for the Burns 250th Anniversary, and we hope it will prove a landmark in the development of Scottish literary studies in the United States.  The conference aims to bring together Burnsians and Burns scholars of different generations, from North America, Scotland, and elsewhere, to provide fresh perspectives on Burns’s work and that of his contemporaries, in the context of his times and culture.

Most events will be held in the University’s Thomas Cooper Library, home to the G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns & Scottish Poetry, one of the world’s premiere Burns collections.  As recently reported in the Burns Chronicle (Spring, 2008), Dr. and Mrs. Roy recently transferred to the library their collection of Burns manuscripts and memorabilia, which will be on public display during conference for the first time since the transfer.  

(L-R): Dr. Ross Roy, Frank Shaw, and Dr. Patrick Scott, reviewing two Kilmarnocks, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect.  Four Kilmarnocks will be on display at the conference, the most ever displayed in North America at one time.

The conference schedule is now firming up, with participation planned by well-known overseas Burnsians, including Robert Burns World Federation President Bill Dawson, and the legendary singer Jean Redpath.  There has also been good early interest from Burnsians in the United States, including from the Burns Club of Atlanta.  In addition to a full program of panels and other gatherings, plans for the conference include:

* Opening keynote lecture by Edward J. Cowan, University of Glasgow (Thursday, 4 p.m.);
* Welcome reception and exhibit opening, with remarks by Prof. G. Ross Roy;
* Plenary talks by major Burns scholars including Carol McGuirk, R. D. S. Jack, Kenneth Simpson, Gerard Carruthers, and others;
* Special sessions on Burns in relation to his contemporaries, on Burns collecting, on the Burns manuscripts in the Roy Collection, and on some of the characteristic cultural forms of Burns’s time, such as chapbooks, newspaper poetry, periodical essays, letters, poetical epistles, engraved music collections, etc.; 
* Burns concert by Jean Redpath (Friday evening);
* Public program on Burns at the South Carolina State Museum, linked to Tartan Day (Saturday afternoon);
* Concluding conference dinner on Saturday evening.  

If you are interested in attending, you are asked to contact the organizers, Patrick Scott and G. Ross Roy, at the email or postal address below, so that you are sent the full program and registrations details as soon as these are available. Because of institutional and other support, we expect to hold the registration fee to $100, including the opening reception, the Redpath concert, Saturday reception, and the conference dinner.   Anyone interested in offering a short paper (20-25 minutes) is invited to contact Dr. Scott by October 15, 2008, preferably by email to Proposals should include the proposer's name, the paper title, a 1-2 page abstract, a 2-3 line bio note, and contact information.

The conference is on the University of South Carolina's flagship campus, in Columbia, the state capital.

Columbia is at the intersection of I-20, I-77, and I-26, and Columbia Metropolitan Airport has direct flights from many major cities, as well as connections through Charlotte and Atlanta.   A block of rooms has been reserved at the recently-renovated Courtyard by Marriott, 630 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29201, close by the library.  To get the conference hotel rate, book before March 1, 2009, and say you are attending the Robert Burns Conference (  or tel: 1-803-799-7800). 

Contact information:

Patrick Scott & G. Ross Roy, Robert Burns Conference,
Rare Books & Special Collections, Thomas Cooper Library,
University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.
Tel: (US) 803-777-1275 or 777-8154;
Fax: 803-777-4661 (marked attn Patrick Scott)

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