Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2012

Document Type

Thesis

First Advisor

Ann Schmiesing

Abstract

In the popular imagination, Scottish culture is frequently reduced to haggis, kilts, and bagpipes, and Scotland itself is often mistakenly viewed politically as just an extension or territory of England. After spending three months in Edinburgh on a CU study abroad program, I left with a new appreciation for Scotland and its people. Though it is only a small nation, Scotland has a distinct culture that is at times misunderstood both within the United Kingdom and abroad. With this in mind, I decided to look more closely at Scottish identity and its formation over several centuries. Robert Burns is one of the best-known figures in Scottish history, so in this thesis I focus on his poetry and examine his contributions to Scottish culture in a sociohistorical context. With reference to theories of nationalism, cultural identity, and postcolonialism, I study the manner in which Burns uses his poetry to react against the Anglicization of Scotland that had occurred in the decades after the Union of 1707. He not only highlights the problems of the post-Union shift in culture, but also endeavors to disrupt England‘s ongoing influence on Scotland. Burns then further seeks to reconstruct a unique Scottish identity through his romantic poetry. Burns‘ influence has survived through generations and, as I will show, is reflected today in the current debate concerning Scottish independence from England. It is clear that Robert Burns‘ efforts to construct a unique Scottish culture have endured and will continue to be influential for Scotland as the independence movement comes to the political forefront.

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