Robert Burns Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909
Conference: The Object of Poetry
Conference - ‘The Object of Poetry' - Saturday, 26th March 2011
Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee
This conference is the culmination of the AHRC Beyond Text project ‘Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory 1796 - 1909' the aims of which are to study the public and private memorialisation of Robert Burns, through a detailed study of the various statues, monuments and numerous artefacts produced in his memory. Thus, the project endeavours to explain the link between the memorialisation of Burns and the reception of his poetry, also considering its effect on the reception of Burns as a poet and icon, and how this impacted on popular memory.
Although the project deals with the case of Burns, the aims of this conference are to widen the field of investigation by examining hitherto unexplored interactions between literary and material culture througout all the long nineteenth century, aiming to 1) address the interconnection between literary reception and popular memory, and 2) explore they ways in which different writers and their writing are transmitted into the broader cultural context. The conference seeks to examine the relationship between literary reputation and popular culture, attempting to explain how an author's status and works are translated in material cultural terms through associational objects, whether this is publicly through fine art, sculpture and architecture or privately in the form of relics, souvenirs and domestic artefacts.
The conference will also consider how these different forms of material culture commemorate, resonate and reflect the writers themselves, and how they illustrate and impact upon the reputation of the poetry or prose of that writer; ultimately examining whether and/or in what ways material culture, public or private, can be used as an effective tool in studying the reception history of a text or an author. In relation to the link between literary reception and popular memory, this conference will study the way in which different writers through their own reputation and writing, many supported by material cultural evidence, have evolved as cultural icons creating defined and lasting traces in popular memory whilst acting as signposts of the relationship between literature and material culture.
Key-note speakers attending the conference include Professor Murray Pittock (University of Glasgow), Professor Murdo Macdonald (University of Dundee), and Professor Christopher A. Whatley (University of Dundee), who will be giving papers on different aspects of the core themes of the conference relating to different writers and iconic figures from the nineteenth century. The organisers of the conference welcome proposals for papers on any of the core themes, or which have relevance to the core themes as described above:
- Connnection between material culture and literary reception.
- Use of material culture as a means of investigating/explaining reception history.
- Impact of iconic writers or historical figures on popular and/or collective memory.
The deadline for receipt of proposals for this conference has passed.
The project conference, 'The Object of Poetry', was hosted at the University of Dundee on 25th March 2011 as planned, and papers were delivered by the project team and members of the project steering committee (comprised of scholars from the UK and Europe, as well as partners from the Culture/Heritage sector).
The conference afforded an excellent opportunity to network, and concluded with a very useful discussion panel on future projects and collaborations. Several opportunites to further the research conducted as part of 'Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909', and to enter into new research collaborations, are currently being explored by the project team. Please continue to check the project website where details of future research will be announced:
'The Object of Poetry' Conference Poster
'The Object of Poetry' Conference Programme
Exhibitions and Public Events
The 'Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909' project team developed a series of exhibitions and events aimed at encouraging public engagement:
Exhibition: 'Treasure of the Month' at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow
The 'Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909' project team developed an exhibition of Burnsiana for Glasgow's Mitchell Library's 'Treasure of the Month' case. This was displayed in the Glasgow Room on Level 2 of the Mitchell Library from the 5th January to the 18th February 2011, during which time 120,000 people visited the library.
Launch of Project Web Resources: March 2010
Two new web resources, the primary research output of 'Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909' project, went live on the 4th of March 2010. These web resources - a detailed online catalogue of Burns statues and major public memorials erected prior to 1909, and a taxonomy of private and domestic Burns-related objects produced during the same period - enable a vast range of images and items used in the transmission of Robert Burns's reputation into the sphere of cultural memory to be openly available for study or consultation in one place for the first time:
In the months following the launch of the website, hits in excess of 18,500 demonstrated widespread interest in the project research and outcomes. Since the launch of the website, the project team have been approached by a significant number of private collectors of Burns memorabilia in the UK and US who have been inspired to share images of their collection, as well as their expertise surrounding various artefacts, as a consequence of the project research.
The website continues to be updated as new and interesting objects come to light, and will shortly host an online exhibition, 'Objects of Desire: Robert Burns, Sexuality and Material Culture', to coincide with an article due to be published in 2012.
Please continue to visit the project website to view updates and future research developments.
Exhibition: 'Robert Burns Beyond Text' at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway
The project team also co-curated a larger exhibition, ‘Robert Burns Beyond Text', at the recently re-opened Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, where visitors had the opportunity to view some of the museum's treasures, explore the project website and also examine our ‘handling kit' of Burnsiana: a sample of Burns memorabilia which was made available for close scrutiny. This exhibition ran from 7th March - 29th April 201, during which time the museum had some 6100 visitors.
Talk: 'Robert Burns: Statues, Souvenirs and the Making of Memory'
As part of the 'Robert Burns Beyond Text' programme of events, Murray Pittock gave a talk, 'Robert Burns: Statues, Souvenirs and the Making of Memory', at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway on Sunday 13th March 2011.
Professor Pittock's talk was scheduled to coincide with 'Burnsianarama' (Sunday 13th March 2011): an event that invited the public to bring their own Burns memorabilia along to the museum to discuss with members of our research team and tell them and other visitors how these objects have helped them remember Burns.
Exhibition: 'Robert Burns Beyond Text' at the University of Glasgow, Department of Scottish Literature
The 'Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909' project team developed an exhibition of Burnsiana to be displayed at the University of Glasgow from May - October 2011. This exhibition coinceded with the BARS (British Academy of Romantic Studies) International Conference, hosted by the University of Glasgow in July 2011. A project display was also arranged for the launch of the conference on 28th July.
Exhibition: 'Robert Burns Beyond Text' at the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
An exhibition of Burnsiana, most notably Burns medals and pottery from the 'Harry Kelly Pottery Collection', is currently on display at the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow. The exhibition will run from 17th November - 24th December 2011.
Publications Academic Papers/ Workshops
In addition to creating the project web resources, the 'Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796-1909' project team produced the following project-related publications, conference papers, seminars and talks:
Mackay, Pauline, 'Robert Burns Beyond Text: Introducing a new resource for Robert Burns research' in Burns Chronicle, Spring (2011), 42-43.
Pittock, Murray and Mackay, Pauline, ‘Beyond Text: Burns, Byron and their Material Cultural Afterlife' in The Byron Journal 39:2 (2011), 149-62.
Pittock, Murray and Mackay, Pauline, ‘Highland Mary: the Object of Myth' in Romanticism, [Forthcoming, 2012].
Pittock, Murray and Whatley, Christopher, ‘Robert Burns: Poems and Festivals' in Scottish Historical Review, [Forthcoming, 2012].
Whatley, Christopher, ‘Memorialising Burns', www.gla.ac.uk/robertburnsbeyondtext, October 2010.
Whatley, Christopher, ‘Robert Burns, memorialisation and the "heart beatings" of Victorian Scotland' in Pittock (ed.), Burns in Global Culture (Bucknell, 2011), 204-28).
Whatley, Christopher, ‘It is said that Burns was a Radical' in Journal of British Studies 30:3 (2011), 639-66.
Conference Papers, Seminars and Talks:
Pauline Mackay: 'Robert Burns Beyond Text', Lecture to Atlanta Burns Club, Georgia, US, 30th September 2010.
Christopher Whatley: ‘Hi-jacked: Scots and the Contested Memory of Robert Burns', St Andrews Day Public Lecture, Dundee, 30th November 2010.
Murray Pittock: ‘Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory: Objects and the Composition of Biography', Inter-University Seminar in Romantic Studies (Birkbeck/Open University), School of Advanced Study, London, 2 March 2011.
Murray Pittock and Pauline Mackay: ‘Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory: a Beyond Text Project', Carnegie Trust 'Digital Tools and Digital Resources' Workshop, University of Edinburgh, 12 March 2011.
Murray Pittock: ‘Robert Burns: Statues, Souvenirs and the Making of Memory', Lecture at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, 13 March 2011.
Murdo Macdonald: 'Monuments to Robert Burns: Extending the View', Object of Poetry conference, University of Dundee, 26 March 2011.
Murray Pittock and Pauline Mackay: ‘Highland Mary: the Object of Biography', Object of Poetry conference, University of Dundee, 26 March 2011.
Christopher Whatley: 'Whose Burns, which Burns? Dundee's Burns statue,
by Sir John Steell, 1880', Object of Poetry conference, University of Dundee, 26 March 2011.
Murray Pittock: ‘Robert Burns', Commemorating Writers in Europe Conference, Utrecht, 8 December 2011.
Pauline Mackay: ‘Burns And Artefacts', Burns and Beyond Conference, University of Glasgow, 17th January 2012.
Murdo MacDonald: ‘Rethinking Burns and Art' Burns 'Artefact' Conference, University of Glasgow, 14th January 2012.
Murray Pittock : ‘Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory: Objects and the Composition of Biography', RHUL, 29 March 2012.
Robert Burns Beyond Text: Main Research Findings (Poster)