Bawdry and the body in the work of Robert Burns: the poet's unofficial self

Mackay, Pauline Anne (2011) Bawdry and the body in the work of Robert Burns: the poet's unofficial self. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The following thesis represents the first extensive critical study of the bawdy song and verse of the Scottish national bard, Robert Burns (1759-1796). An examination of Burns’s correspondence explores the poet’s lifetime reception, the dissemination and the production of his bawdy verse, and considers the received critical wisdom surrounding the emergence of some of these key productions in the 1799 publication of 'The Merry Muses of Caledonia'. By charting shifts in culture and legislation surrounding the publication of sexually explicit literature from the eighteenth century to the present day, this thesis explains the influence of ‘official culture’ upon the gradual appearance of Robert Burns’s ‘unofficial’ body of work in the public domain, and the eventual inclusion of originally suppressed works, such as those included in 'The Merry Muses of Caledonia', as part of Robert Burns’s canon. Through a thematic critical examination of Robert Burns’s bawdy song and verse, it is argued that Burns employs bawdry as a means of scrutinising and subverting eighteenth-century religious, domestic and political culture. Further to this, it is contended that Burns’s bawdry and writing about explicit sexuality needs to be brought out into the light of the early twenty-first century, not because of the preoccupations of this particular century, but because of Burns’s crucial cultural interest and engagement with sexuality in the eighteenth century. Ultimately this thesis posits that Burns’s sexually explicit writing forms a significant part of poet’s canon insofar as it represents a crucial part of his artistic, cultural and historical context, and contributes to a more thorough and accurate understanding of Scotland’s most iconic literary figure as both man and poet.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: Robert Burns, Scottish literature, literature and sexuality, literature and censorship, publishing history.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Carruthers, Prof. Gerard
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Dr Pauline Mackay
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2854
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2011
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2021 07:10
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.2854

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