MacDiarmid's burns: The political context, 1917-1928

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This article focuses on the political context which fostered Hugh MacDiarmid's iconoclastic approach to Burns's legacy in nineteen-twenties Scotland. MacDiarmid's critique of the conservative Burns cult - as he famously expressed in his 1926 poem "A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle" -did not stand alone in Scotland in the wake of the Great War. Instead, it was part of a wider radical movement which opposed the unionist and militarist hijacking of Burns that had taken place in Scotland during the Great War. In reaction to the bard of King, Country, and Empire, socialist and early nationalist organisations used Burns as a concrete symbol to express their ideas on peace, class, and nationhood. This post-war debate on Scotland's national bard, as this article will show, was instrumental in enabling MacDiarmid  to articulate his own, literary, and revolutionary re-assessment of the 'ImmortalMemory'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-66
Number of pages20
JournalScottish Literary Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


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