This chapter provides a detailed discussion of Burns' key writings. It begins by contrasting his continuing sales and international impact with his virtual disappearance from British literary history after 1960, and argues that more recent assessments of him as a ‘peasant poet’ are fundamentally misleading because they seriously underestimate both his linguistic sophistication and its thematic effects in his poetry, which is read as having a great deal in common with Wordsworth, whose themes Burns anticipated in a number of respects. The bulk of the chapter offers close readings of several prominent Burns poems, laying stress on the sophistication of their effects. An in-depth reading of ‘Tam o'Shanter’ reveals it as a critique of the aesthetics of the Romantic collector. The chapter closes with a consideration of the influence of Currie's edition of Burns on subsequent readings. Tom Crawford and Nigel Leask are singled out as important critics.
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