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The Genius of Scotland

The Cultural Production of Robert Burns, 1785-1834

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Corey E Andrews

The Genius of Scotland: The Cultural Production of Robert Burns, 1785-1834 explores the wide-ranging reception history of Robert Burns by examining the sources of his reputation as the ‘Genius of Scotland’ in the Scottish Enlightenment and beyond. Evaluating his changing stature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the book investigates the figure of Burns as a ‘cultural production’ that was constructed by warring cultural forces in the literary marketplace. The critical promotion of Burns as the ‘Heaven-taught ploughman’ greatly influenced his legacy as a labouring-class ‘genius’ and national icon, both of which relied on blatant censorship and distortion of his biography and works. The Genius of Scotland debunks both the hagiographic and vituperative representations of the poet from this period, revealing not only how (and why) he was culturally produced as a national ‘genius’ but also how the process continues to influence our understanding of Burns into the present day.