Notes on Robert Burns

  1. How does Robert Burns contribute to Romanticism?
    1. Less than 100 years later, Victorians went back to extreme repression as a means of expression, artistically and socially
      1. Where is Robert Burns intense fixation on passion, emotion, individualism and sexuality serve as a rebellion?
      2. Key part of romanticism- thinking part and the emotional part
        1. “Tempest of life”
        2. Lived a life that wasn’t hidden, left England as a sort of exile and a creative avenue for his own life
        3. Writing out of that peasant tradition- not hung up on the delicacies of morals, niceties
          1. A clash of sensibilities
    2. Neoclassical and clashing movements
      1. Overplaying the thinking, all about control and restraint
      2. The gothics and the romantics express a dissenting ideology in literature and art that is less focused on control and intellect (in the classical definition of intellect)
        1. Through the power of your mind you can express an emotion but you cannot deny that the emotion exists at all
          1. Where Burns and his poetry function is at this junction of thought
    3. Scottish Identity
      1. Adam Smith- “Wealth of Nations”
        1. Basically began the study of English literature
          1. Largely started so that Scottish people could learn English customs and ways of thought
            1. Other motive: Scottish were traders with England. An understanding of English culture would make them sympathetic and more easily involved in further trade
            2. Same logic was applied to other colonized countries
      2. Robert Burns and Scottish identity
        1. First and foremost, there was a necessity to define Scottish identity
          1. “The Scotland in which Burns lived was a country in transition, sometimes in contradiction, on several fronts. The political scene was in flux, the result of the 1603 and 1707 unions which had stripped Scotland of its autonomy and finally all but muzzled the Scottish voice, as decisions and directives issued from London rather than from Edinburgh. A sense of loss led to questions and sometimes to actions, as in the Jacobite rebellions early in the eighteenth century. Was there a national identity? Should aspects of Scottish uniqueness be collected and enshrined? Should Scotland move ahead, adopting English manners, language, and cultural forms? No single answer was given to any of these questions. But change was afoot: Scots moved closer to an English norm, particularly as it was used by those in the professions, religion, and elite circles; “think in English, feel in Scots” seems to have been a widespread practice, which limited the communicative role, as well as the intelligibility, of Scots. For a time, however, remnants of the Scots dialect met with approbation among certain circles. A loose-knit movement to preserve evidences of Scottish culture embraced products that had the stamp of Scotland upon them, lauding Burns as a poet from the soil; assembling, editing, and collecting Scottish ballads and songs; sometimes accepting James Macpherson’s Ossianic offerings; and lauding poetic Jacobitism. This movement was both nationalistic and antiquarian, recognizing Scottish identity through the past and thereby implicitly accepting contemporary assimilation.”
      3. Robert Burns and metaphysical eroticism
        1. Where does erotic poetry come into play in literary importance
          1. Metaphysical poets – take the erotic and mesh it with the metaphysical and the spirirtual, something higher than what is usually associated with sex
          2. Song of Solomon
          3. Robert Burn himself has poetry that has erotic charge as a gateway to a higher understanding of self and of relationship to others/ to body
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