Robert Burns and Scottish Cultural Politics: The Bard of Contention (1914-2014)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Robert Burns is Scotland’s best known and most influential poet; yet his political legacy also ranks amongst the most contentious. His ambiguous verse, oscillating between patriotic odes, egalitarian lines and royalist songs, lends itself to interpretations from across the political divide. Blending historical research and literary studies, this volume is the first book-length study of Burns's political afterlife. It follows the transformations of Burns’s image throughout the late modern era, as revolutionaries, nationalists and avant-garde writers co-opted Burns’s myth to subvert their country’s social and constitutional order. From Great War unionism to 1940s socialism and contemporary nationalism, the examination of Burns’s tempestuous afterlives sheds light on the ongoing Scottish question. Overall, it reminds us that poetry is a very shifting ground on which to build a national identity.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages278
ISBN (Electronic)ISBN 9781399503488
ISBN (Print)ISBN 9781399503457
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Robert Burns
  • Scottish politics
  • Scottish literature
  • unionism
  • Scottish nationalism
  • Scottish independence
  • Labour Party
  • SNP
  • Hugh MacDiarmid


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