Prose & SongCorrespondence & Poetry

The Team

Professor Gerard Carruthers (General Editor; Francis Hutcheson Chair of Scottish Literature)

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, later 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 Collected Works of Robert Burns (published from 2014). In due course I will be editing Burns’s poetry for the edition and the Oxford Handbook of Robert Burns. I am also currently writing a monograph, Robert Burns, Patronage, Fraternity & the People. An assortment of other Burns interests preoccupy me at the moment: his relationship to slavery, 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. After twenty two 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 am also Convenor of ‘Burns Scotland’ (the National Burns collection, gathering up museum and archival collections held by national institutions and local authorities) and Honorary Advisor on Burns to the National Trust for Scotland. The work of the OUP edition has been enabled by two generous grants from the Arts & Humanities Research Council under the project heading of ‘Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century’ (£1.1m in 2011; £1m in 2016).

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Professor Nigel Leask (Editor; Regius Chair of English Language and Literature)

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; Professor of Scottish Literature and Song Culture)

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, Scots Musical Museum; Pro-Vice Principal [Special Projects] & Bradley Chair of English Literature)

Murray PittockMurray Pittock FRSE is Bradley Professor of English Literature at the University of Glasgow, and has held visiting appointments in Dublin, Prague, Auburn, New York and Yale universities among others. 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. He is the editor of the Scots Musical Museum (Volumes 2 and 3 of the Collected Burns, 2018), and has also recently published Enlightenment in a Smart City: Edinburgh’s Civic Development (2018), Culloden (2016House of Commons reading list/ Country Life and Herald choice/ History Today top ten titles of the year), The Reception of Robert Burns in Europe (2014), Material Culture and Sedition (2013-Shortlisted, Saltire Research Book of the Year) and Robert Burns in Global Culture (2011) among other works. He has recently completed a study on Robert Burns and the Scottish Economy for the Scottish Government and has also held AHRC awards in Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory: Robert Burns Beyond Text  (weblink) and The Global Burns Network. He is the General Editor of the Edinburgh Edition of Allan Ramsay, the first scholarly edition of Burns’s most important predecessor, funded by the AHRC from 2018-23. 

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Dr Pauline Mackay (Editor; 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 Rhona Brown (Editor; Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Scottish Literature and the Periodical Press)

I grew up in a household immersed in Burns. Three generations before me had been Presidents of the local Burns Club, and at primary school, I entered the Burns Federation’s singing and reciting competitions on an annual basis. I was brought up in the heart of ‘Burns Country’, on the border between Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire, and my childhood home was filled with Burns-related books. There was no engagement with Burns during my years at secondary school, but I rediscovered his work as an undergraduate at the University of Strathclyde, and thereafter completed a PhD in eighteenth-century Scottish literature at the University of Glasgow. Since joining the staff at Glasgow in 2006, I have published widely on the work of Burns and those who were crucial influences on him, as well as on Burns’s contexts and reception. I have been involved in the Centre for Robert Burns Studies since its inception, and have recently been appointed Associate Director of the Centre and co-editor of Burns’s Correspondence for the forthcoming Oxford University Press edition of his Complete Works. My work on Burns’s erudite, entertaining and revealing letters teaches me something new about Scotland’s most celebrated poet every day.

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Dr Ronnie Young (Editor; Lecturer in the Scottish Enlightenment)

Like many Scots, I first became acquainted with Burns in childhood. One of the few books of note in the family home was an early 20th-century reissue of the Kilmarnock edition that once belonged to my grandfather, and Burns was commemorated in my hometown of Falkirk for his tour stopover while visiting nearby Carron Iron Works. However, despite occassional encounters with Burns’s work at University, it wasn’t until I undertook postgraduate research that I began to appreciate his social significance and intellectual heft, particularly the way in which Burns’s works engaged the philosophical thought of the Scottish Enlightenment. My first published article looked at the ways in which Burns’s position as poet was shaped by a wider set of Enlightenment discourses on genius. I recently set up the Burns Paper Database as an online resource which surveys the manuscripts of Burns held by partners in Burns Scotland and I’m absolutely thrilled to have started co-editing the correspondence of Burns as part of the Centre for Robert Burn Studies’ new edition for OUP. As a Lecturer in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow, I helped set up online classes on Burns, including our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ‘Poems, Songs and Legacy’ with Futurelearn and our longer 10-week distance-taught course, and I also introduce learners from across the world to the work of Burns in both our study abroad programme for US students and our summer school for students from China.

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Dr Carol Baraniuk (Research Associate)

I’ve been aware of Burns since my childhood as I was born in Belfast where the Linen Hall Library houses a magnificent collection of Burns’s works and of Burnsiana. My academic interest in him developed during my PhD research at the University of Glasgow, when I examined his influence on a circle of north of Ireland poets of Scots descent who wrote Scots vernacular verse and employed traditional Scots stanza forms. The PhD was published recently and incorporates detailed readings of works central to the Burns oeuvre. I have held research and teaching posts at the University of Ulster which focused on Scottish literature, and northern Irish literature rooted in Scottish literary traditions. I have published widely and presented at national and international conferences on Scottish and Irish literary relationships within the contexts of four nations history and Romanticism. I also have particular research interests in Burns’s twentieth-century biographers from the Modernist period to the present, in the Burns collector Andrew Gibson, and in the German Burns scholar Hans Hecht. Most recently I have been assembling notes to support the annotation of Burns’s poems and correspondence in the forthcoming OUP editions, and have begun transcribing the poet’s letters from manuscript sources. I’m delighted to have been appointed to the Burns C21 team.

Dr Craig Lamont (Research Associate)

I only really ‘found’ Burns at the beginning of my twenties. During my first degree I was enthralled by modern history and found myself writing short stories (chiefly) in Glaswegian dialect. I did not learn any Burns at primary or secondary school. Passing references to the Bard in my family were usually sarcastic. My AHRC-funded PhD thesis on Georgian Glasgow drew me into the tumultuous swell of the eighteenth century and I began to understand much more about the roots of contemporary Scotland. And while my focus remained on the cultural history of Glasgow as a city, Burns was ever-present in that world. Following my PhD I began working on a new Bibliography of Robert Burns editions with colleagues in the Centre for Robert Burns Studies. In studying the spread of Burnsian print culture I became even more acquainted with Burns’s legacy and reception, fuelling my interest in the study of cultural memory. After this I lectured in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow, teaching undergraduates a range of texts and writers that span centuries, including, of course, the life and works of Robert Burns. As a new member of the Burns C21 team I will be working with Dr Baraniuk and the editors toward new volumes in the OUP edition. As the work proceeds it is increasingly obvious why the fame of Burns was so bright, and why this new scholarship is so essential.

Dr James J. Caudle (Research Associate)

I am currently working with the team which is crafting the Correspondence volumes of the Oxford Edition of The Works of Robert Burns.
My new research on Burns will reconstruct his personal library, and investigate and publish the songs and poems of the ‘Contemporaries of Burns’. My broader work on the cultures of eighteenth-century Britain focuses on the social history of ideas, history of the book, political thought in early modern mass media, and the functions of amateur verse in Georgian culture. During my time as the Associate Editor of the Yale Boswell Editions from 2000 to 2017, I was co-editor of a volume of James Boswell’s earliest general correspondence 1757–63. My recent published work on James Boswell includes ‘Affleck Generations…’ (2018) and ‘The Case of the Missing Hottentot…’ (2019). My History Ph.D. research analyzed the political debates on obedience and resistance, as expressed in the Georgian loyalist sermons published as pamphlets in 1714–60 during the conflict of legitimacy between the kings of the House of Hanover and their rivals the Jacobite dynasts. I continue to publish on that topic, including ‘A Model Minority?…’ (2019) and ‘The Origins of Political Broadcasting…’ (2016).

Moira Hansen (Project Assistant)

I’ve joined the project team having recently completed my PhD which explores Burns’s mental and physical health, and their impacts on his life and creativity. The project involved working with a great volume of source materials so I’m now perfectly placed for my role in the ERB21C team as project assistant, where I’m responsible for acquiring and co-ordinating resources required by the wider team as they edit Burns’s writing, liaising with external partners on a range of issues, and in organising the various events which we host as part of the project’s output. Beyond this role, my research interests lie in the 18th century, and in the intersections between literature and medicine and science.

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 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
  • Prof 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