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Robert Burns Lives!
Frank Gives a Talk to the Burns and Beyond Conference in Glasgow

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

Dr. Rhona Brown has once again joined the pages of Robert Burns Lives! by sharing with us an informative overview of the recent annual Burns conference hosted by the University of Glasgow. To date she has three articles on this web site so is no stranger to our readers. Check out the chapters referenced below to fully understand why we are delighted to have her as one of our guest writers:

The Honorary Graduation of Professor G. Ross Roy, Chapter 61
The Ross Roy Medal, Chapter 91
The Biographical Construction of Robert Fergusson, 1774-1900, Chapter 103

I have found Rhona extremely willing to help make the pages of our Burns site one of the more relevant ones on the subject found across the internet. Not only does she help when I ask her, she also volunteers to assist me with Robert Burns Lives! which has been referred to by one authority on the Bard as an “oft read” web site. I like that! The late Robert Carnie, Burns scholar extraordinaire, professor, and a grand Canadian, is the only person to currently have more articles on Robert Burns Lives! than Rhona, an extraordinary person in her own right, and who will tie Dr. Carnie with her next article. Thank you, Rhona, for all you do for all of our readers! (FRS: 3.17.11)

Burns and Beyond:
A One Day Conference hosted by the Centre of Robert Burns Studies
Saturday 15 January 2011
By Dr. Rhona Brown, University of Glasgow

On 15 January 2011, the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies held a one-day conference entitled ‘Burns and Beyond’, a diverse and well-attended event which demonstrated the many and refreshing approaches to Robert Burns and his work.

Beginning with a welcome by the Centre’s Director, Dr. Gerry Carruthers, the conference continued with six excellent papers from scholars from Scotland, Europe and North America. Starting proceedings was Dr. Pauline Mackay, whose paper, ‘Robert Burns Beyond Text’ provided a fascinating insight into a new research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by Professor Murray Pittock of Glasgow University and Professors Christopher Whatley and Murdo Macdonald of the University of Dundee, entitled ‘Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909’. The project, as Dr. Mackay explained, is engaged in providing a comprehensive web-based catalogue of public monuments erected to Robert Burns’s memory throughout the world, as well as cataloguing and analysing Burnsiana. Dr. Mackay’s paper and photographic illustrations offered an absorbing view of the monuments and objects which have celebrated Burns’s memory since the time of his death, demonstrating the poet’s great cultural significance.

’Robert Burns Lives’s!’ very own Frank Shaw was next to speak, offering a paper on the origins and development of the ‘Robert Burns Lives!’ webpage. The talk, presented with characteristic warmth and humour, drew attention to the vast range of scholarship on Burns’s life and works which is anthologised on the website, and gave insight into the regard for Burns and his work in North America.

Dr. Valentina Bold, of Glasgow University’s Dumfries Campus, next delivered a paper entitled ‘Jean Burns to Mrs Riddell: the discovery and repatriation of a letter from 1804’. This paper, which described the discovery, authentication and restoration of a previously unknown letter thought to have been written by or for Jean Armour to Maria Riddell, highlighted the poignant but intriguing details of Armour’s family life after the death of her husband. As Dr. Bold stated, the letter, which was found in a New York junk shop by fellow academic Dr. Nancy Grose, has now made its way back to Scotland.

Sir Kenneth Calman’s ‘Remember Tam o’ Shanter’s Mare: A Study of Burns and Health’ offered a fresh perspective on Burns’s work by focusing on the portrayal of illness and medicine in his writings. Giving brand new interpretations of Burns’s work through the context of contemporary health treatments and ailments, the paper was entertaining and enormously informative.

A paper concerning the ‘Ideological adaptation of Robert Burns’s poetry in the former Soviet Union’ by Dr. Natalia Kaloh Vid of the University of Maribor, Slovenia, followed, with an equally intriguing look at Burns’s reception in the former Soviet Union. Focusing particularly on the translations of Burns’s work by Russian translator, Samuil Marshak, Dr. Vid highlighted the political and ideological motivations behind the translator’s work. Translating Marshak’s translations back into English, Dr. Vid analysed the differences in presentation between Burns’s originals and Marshak’s interpretations, offering a view of Burns’s celebrity in the former Soviet Union, but also of the constraints and demands placed on the translator.

The conference’s keynote address was provided by Professor Nigel Leask of Glasgow University, whose monograph, Robert Burns and Pastoral: Poetry and Improvement in Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland recently won the Saltire Book of the Year award. His paper, entitled ‘Robert Burns and the Discovery of the People’ was informed by new archival research, and focused on Burns’s political attitudes in key works. Professor Leask’s fresh material and innovative readings demonstrated that there is always more to discover about Burns.

At coffee breaks delegates were able to view Colin Hunter MacQueen’s perfect replica model of the Burns mausoleum in Dumfries, as well as being entertained with music and song. Although musician and singer Kirsten Easdale was originally invited to play, a lost voice forced her to bring along an alternative – Rod Paterson, renowned singer of Burns songs, who provided appealing and arresting interpretations of favourites as well as lesser-known works.

The Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow has recently been awarded a grant of £1 million in order to advance research for a new scholarly edition of Burns’s complete works which will be published by Oxford University Press. The scholarly activities highlighted by ‘Burns and Beyond’ demonstrates the exciting new directions Burns studies will take in the future.

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