The Team

Professor Gerard Carruthers (General Editor)

Gerry CarruthersI have published one monograph, an edited and a co-edited collection of critical essays on Burns and around twenty five essays on the poet. I became interested in Burns during my PhD on the ‘long eighteenth century’ in Scotland (which features one chapter on the bard). My own interests were, to begin with, strictly interpretative and especially about the ways in which Anglocentric traditions of Scottish criticism tended to see Burns (and many other Scottish writers) as limited. I was also interested in the ‘Scottish materials’ (forms and themes, most generally) out of which Burns constructed his work. From those starting points, I developed an abiding interest in Burns’s poetic voice, his Enlightenment influences and his contemporaries, critics and editors. After a part of my career spent as Research Fellow on the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels (of Walter Scott), I realised that my training in textual editing could be applied to Burns, and from there I progressed to become the General Editor of the new Oxford University Press edition of the Works of Robert Burns (to be published from 2013). In due course I will be editing Burns’s poetry for the edition. I am currently writing a monograph, Robert Burns & the People, and developing another on the 1790s, which has a chapter on Burns. An assortment of other Burns interests currently preoccupy me: ‘Highland Mary’, Burns’s relationship with the Catholic community of Scotland, the culture of fraud surrounding the poet (especially, ‘Antique’ Smith) and, in tandem with my work as General Editor of the OUP edition, the writer’s book and publishing history (I have recently completed a long essay on the interleaved Scots Musical Museum that Burns gifted to Robert Riddell). After eighteen years of giving talks and engaging in public debate about Burns, I realise that I am very lucky to work in such an exhilarating area of literary study and cultural history! As well as being General Editor of the OUP edition and Co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, I also convene the research group of ‘Burns Scotland’ (the national Burns collection, gathering up museum and archival collections held by national institutions and local authorities). The OUP edition has been very much enabled by a grant of £1 million from the Arts & Humanties Research Council under the project heading of ‘Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century’. As part of the expanded activity that this grant allows, I am currently enjoying planning the commissioning and recording of Burns song-performance.

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Professor Nigel Leask (Editor)

Although like most Scots I’ve been acquainted with a smattering of Burns’s poetry since childhood, my interest was really aroused when writing an essay on him as an undergraduate at an English university. Why did Burns seem so different from other 18th century and Romantic poets that we studied? Despite initial difficulties in grasping the meaning of some of his 18th century Scots diction, Burns’s verse spoke with an immediacy and freshness that was quite unique, obviously one reason for his huge but under-acknowledged influence on other great poets like Wordsworth, Byron and Whitman. After becoming a professional scholar of Romantic literature, and having paid my dues to other British writers of the period, in 2004 I embarked on a 6-year research project on Burns and his social context, the fruits of which were published in my 2010 book Robert Burns and Pastoral: Poetry and Improvement in Late 18th century Scotland, co-winner of the NLS/Saltire Prize for 2011. I’m honoured to be editing the first volume in the new AHRC-funded Oxford edition, and am enjoying learning more about Burns and his literary context with every page that I edit. I’m also lucky to be able to share my enthusiasm with the distinguished group of Burns scholars here in the Robert Burns Centre at the University of Glasgow, with whom I’m in constant communication, and who will (I hope) save me from making too many blunders!

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Professor Kirsteen McCue (Editor)

Kirsteen McCue

My introduction to Burns was listening to my parents perform the songs – often below me as I lay in bed. In fact I can’t remember a time when Burns wasn’t ‘present’ in our family lives. As a former miner, turned professional singer, my father revered Burns and virtually everything he wrote and stood for politically. As a teenager looking for a topic for my sixth year studies English course, I fought against the idea of working on Burns, but this parental influence clearly made its mark on me. I gave in early! My dissertation in my final year at school led to my taking Scottish Literature as an undergraduate at Glasgow University. And I have been unable to shake him off since – my doctoral work ended up bringing Scottish literature and music together and focussed on Burns’s second song editor, George Thomson and his big, opulent collections of National Airs. And here I am, now working for the Centre for Robert Burns Studies back in Glasgow and being part of the editorial team for a new edition of his work, including all those songs! It’s such an exciting project, and I feel very privileged to be involved.

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Professor Murray Pittock (Editor)

Murray PittockMurray Pittock FRSEis Bradley Professor of English Literature at the University of Glasgow, and has held visiting appointments in Dublin, Prague, Auburn and Yale universities. His 2002 British Academy prize Chatterton Lecture, ‘Robert Burns and British Poetry’, delivered in London, Edinburgh, Oxford, Ireland and elsewhere, played a significant part in the critical recuperation of Burns from six decades of neglect. More recently he has published Robert Burns in Global Culture (2011), Scottish and Irish Romanticism (2008, 2011) and The Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Romanticism (2011), as well as being PI of the AHRC Beyond Text and Global Burns Network grants. His ‘Reception of Robert Burns in Europe’ collection is due out from Continuum in 2014.

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Dr Pauline Mackay (Lecturer in Robert Burns Studies; Research Associate 2011-13)

Pauline MackayI have always been fascinated by the aspects of Burns’s life and works that were, until recently, relatively neglected by scholars, and so my own research focuses on Burns’s reserved oeuvre. My MPhil thesis considered the bard’s epistolary affair with Agnes M’Lehose (commonly known by the nom d’amour, ‘Clarinda’) and the complicated publishing history of their correspondence. Following on from this, my PhD thesis ‘Bawdry and the Body in the Work of Robert Burns: The Poet’s Unofficial Self’ investigated Burns’s motivations for writing sexually-centered pieces such as those included in the collection of bawdy verse The Merry Muses of Caledonia (1799), what they achieve, and their historical and cultural contexts, beyond the merely titillating. My work as Research Assistant to the ‘Global Burns Network’ afforded me the opportunity to work with Burns scholars and enthusiasts from all over the world in preparation for the 250th Anniversary of Burns’s birth in 2009. The activities of this group formed the basis for the AHRC Beyond Text Project ‘Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909’, and my first academic post was as Research Assistant to the PI, Murray Pittock. As part of this project I examined Burns-related artefacts and memorabilia in order to draw conclusions about the way in which Burns’s cultural memory was transmitted and influenced by objects, and co-curated a series of temporary exhibitions with the National Trust for Scotland, The Mitchell Library and the University of Glasgow. I have carried out research at several major Burns collections in the UK and abroad, and in 2010 I was the recipient of the W. Ormiston Roy Memorial Fellowship for Research in the area of Robert Burns and Scottish Poetry at the University of South Carolina. I am secretary to ‘Burns Scotland’, and in my role as a Lecturer for the Royal Society of Edinburgh @ Schools programme I visit secondary schools to share my expertise in Burns studies with students and teachers. My appointment as Research Fellow for ‘Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century’ was the culmination of several years of focused research and publication, and allowed me to use my knowledge of Robert Burns, his literary canon, and the world-wide community of Burns scholars and enthusiasts, every single day. Following my work as the project RA, I was appointed to the post of Lecturer in Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow. I’m delighted to remain a member of the Burns C21 team as part of my new role.

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Dr Gerard Lee McKeever (Research Assistant)


I was early exposed to a version of Burns in my Nithsdale youth, primarily through recitals, singing competitions and the annual celebrations. Just as I can’t hit the high notes in ‘Ca’ the Yowes to the Knowes’ anymore, so my relationship to his body of work has deepened over time. I first became interested in the poet from a serious academic perspective as part of an undergraduate dissertation on the politics of Romantic poetics, before an MPhil by Research turned more closely to Scottish material. In a recently completed AHRC-funded PhD (entitled: ‘Enlightened Fictions and the Romantic Nation: Aesthetics of Improvement in Long-Eighteenth-Century Scottish Writing’) and in forthcoming publications, Burns figures as a key component of my model of Scottish Romanticism centred on the concept of ‘improvement’. This research is particularly interested in how ideas of progress affected the relationship between Scottishness and Britishness during the period. Alongside my role with Burns C21 I co-convene the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Romanticism Research Group, plus tutoring and lecturing in the School of Critical Studies. Otherwise, my time is spent writing fiction and watching football. I’m delighted to be continuing my research as part of the Burns team and look forward to delving further into his fascinating oeuvre.

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Dr Vivien Estelle Williams (Research Assistant)

I still remember flicking through the pages of my schoolVivien Williams anthology as a teenager back in Italy where I grew up, and finding a black-and-white picture of a rose; beside it, the enchanting verses of ‘A red, red rose’. Since then I have pursued Robert Burns as a private interest – little did I know what the future had in store for me. I have always been fascinated by Scotland and its culture – it felt to me like a world so distant, so far apart from my homeland. Particularly, my focus has been on the bagpipe. I must have been sixteen when I started collecting data about bagpipes – mentions in literature, documentations in art, prints and satire… I went on to expand these notions in University back in Bari, where I studied foreign languages and literature and carefully noted down every reference to a bagpipe that I could find. By the time I was about to complete my MA I realised that an argument had been forming under my hands, and this took its first shape in my thesis on ‘The Role and Symbolism of the Bagpipe in British Eighteenth-Century Literature’. How great was my excitement when I got accepted for my Ph.D. in Glasgow University, for a project on ‘The Cultural History of the Bagpipe in Britain, 1680-1840’? Throughout the course of my research Robert Burns has been ever-present, and I was only too delighted to be able to talk about how Auld Nick “scre’d the pipes and gart them skirl” in ‘Tam o’ Shanter’, and how Burns himself “used to strut in raptures up and down after the recruiting drum and bagpipe”, as he recounts in a 1787 letter to Dr Moore. To be a Research Assistant in this project is a real joy and privilege for me. It is really incredible how much there is to learn about Robert Burns; to pursue my interest in the man and author with such a great team is for me a truly stimulating opportunity.

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Jonathan Henderson (Project PhD Student): ‘Robert Burns and the Language of Sentiment’

As a boy, I would never have dreamed of studying Burns.Jonathan Henderson Being a child with a stutter, forced to painstakingly recite numerous poems in front my ‘Burns-country’ school classmates in Dumfriesshire, I could easily have been forgiven for steering well clear of Burns as I got older. I, however, became a student of Scottish literature, which meant steering clear of Burns became less and less of an option. Now I am very glad of that. I discovered Burns to be the first, and probably only, figure from literary history that I could imagine as a real person with real character. His wit and the sheer honesty in his work appealed to me. During my masters year I conducted a small study into Burns’s reception during his lifetime, but having already looked at the language use of authors such as Hugh MacDiarmid, Edwin Muir, Walter Scott and James Kelman, a study of Burns’s language was something that grew in its appeal. I consider myself very lucky, therefore, to be part of the ‘Editing Burns for the 21st Century’ project, studying for a PhD on Burns’s engagement with eighteenth-century language of sentiment and really getting to grips with Burns’s work on a detailed linguistic level.

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Arun Sood (Project PhD Student): ‘A Century of Robert Burns in America: 1787-1887’

Like most Scots, I grew up toasting Burns each year onArun Sood the 25th January and was, of course, acquainted with some of his most famous poems from an early age. However, it wasn’t until my final year of undergraduate study that I fully grasped the complexity, depth and intellectual vigour of Burns’s works. Upon studying poems and songs such as ‘When Guilford Good’ and ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’, I became captivated by the political engagement, idealism and poetic craft of a writer who had so often been romantically reduced – in my experience – to a sentimental figure void of the credibility associated with many of his literary contemporaries. While my 2010 Masters thesis focused on nineteenth and twentieth -century American Literature (the influence of The Transcendentalists on the Beats), I was delighted to be given the chance to study Burns again on this project. I am currently researching the reception and subsequent influence of Burns in the United States, and also exploring Burns’s own view of America in the period following the revolution. I feel lucky to be working alongside some of the world’s leading experts on Burns, and hope that my research can contribute to the long-term goals of the project. I was recently awarded a fellowship by the AHRC to research at The Library of Congress for six months, where I will continue to work on Burns’s American reception using the vast resources there, and also carry out some project-related tasks on the other side of the Atlantic.

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Brian Aitken (Digital Humanities Research Officer)

Brian AitkenI am the Digital Humanities Research Officer for the School of Critical Studies and I’ve been providing the project with advice on technical matters since 2012. As well as helping to develop and manage the website I’ve also created some specific features such as the interactive map of Burns’s Tour of the Scottish Highlands. When not working for the project I develop and support other online resources associated with the School, such as the Dictionary of the Scots Language and the Historical Thesaurus of English. You can find a more complete list of these projects here.


Editorial Advisory Board

  • Prof John Barrell, Queen Mary University of London
  • Prof Robert Crawford, University of St Andrews
  • Prof Leith Davis, Simon Fraser University
  • Prof Penny Fielding, University of Edinburgh
  • Prof Stephen Gill, University of Oxford
  • Prof Brean Hammond, University of Nottingham
  • Prof David Hewitt, University of Aberdeen
  • Prof Sandro Jung, University of Ghent
  • Prof Thomas Keymer, University of Toronto
  • Prof Colin Kidd, University of St Andrews
  • Prof Alison Lumsden, University of Aberdeen
  • Prof Jerome McGann, University of Virginia
  • Prof Jon Mee, University of York
  • Prof Liam McIlvanney, University of Otago
  • Prof Martin Prochazka, Charles University Prague
  • Dr Alan Rawes, University of Manchester
  • Dr Michael Rossington, University of Newcastle
  • Prof Patrick Scott, University of South Carolina
  • Prof Fiona Stafford, University of Oxford

Past Members

  • The late Prof G. Ross Roy, University of South Carolina