The Historical Thesaurus and the sentimental language of Robert Burns

Henderson, Jonathan (2016) The Historical Thesaurus and the sentimental language of Robert Burns. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis demonstrates a new methodology for the linguistic analysis of literature drawing on the data within The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (2009). Developing ideas laid out by Carol McGuirk in her book Robert Burns and the Sentimental Era (1985), this study offers a novel approach to the cultural connections present in the sentimental literature of the eighteenth century, with specific reference to Robert Burns. In doing so, it responds to the need to “stop reading Burns through glossaries and start reading him through dictionaries, thesauruses and histories”, as called for by Murray Pittock (2012).
Beginning by situating the methodology in linguistic theory, this thesis goes on firstly to illustrate the ways in which such an approach can be deployed to assess existing literary critical ideas. The first chapter does this testing by examining McGuirk’s book, while simultaneously grounding the study in the necessary contextual background.
Secondly, this study investigates, in detail, two aspects of Burns’s sentimental persona construction. Beginning with his open letter ‘The Address of the Scotch Distillers’ and its sentimental use of the language of the Enlightenment, and moving on to one of Burns’s personas in his letters to George Thomson, this section illustrates the importance of persona construction in Burns’s sentimental ethos.
Finally, a comprehensive, evidence-based, comparison of linguistic trends examines the extent to which similar sentimental language is used by Burns and Henry Mackenzie, Laurence Sterne, William Shenstone and Samuel Richardson.
This thesis shows how this new methodology is a valuable new tool for those involved in literary scholarship. For the first time in any comprehensive way the Historical Thesaurus can be harnessed to make new arguments in literary criticism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Robert, Burns, sentimental, language, historical, thesaurus, Scottish, literature.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Mr Jonathan M. J. Henderson
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7294
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 May 2016 08:41
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2016 15:24
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7294

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