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The Parritch and the Partridge: The Reception of Robert Burns in Germany

A History- 2nd Revised and Augmented Edition

Series:

Rosemary Anne Selle

This book sets out to explore the reception of Scotland’s best-loved writer Robert Burns in Germany, beginning with Burns’s contemporaries in a German state and at a time when instant international fame of foreign writers was yet to develop. The author traces Burns’s growing popularity and, for instance, demonstrates how a single line from a foreigner’s poem could become the motto of a generation of German revolutionists. Many of Burns’s well-known poems do not only figure in this first part but are also the subject of specific case studies in the second. Here works such as «Tam O’ Shanter» or «A red, red rose» are analysed in translation through the ages. The author’s comprehensive work is complemented by a short research update on the reception of Burns.

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3 Review and Perspectives

Extract

3.1 “Original criticism has been rare” What is it about Burns and his work that has engaged and fascinated his German audience and given rise to a rich and varied reception history? Returning to this question first asked in the Introduction, we can approach an answer by way of a recent article on Burns’s reception in Hungary, where he has also been widely appreciated and frequently translated. Writing for the periodical Studies in Scot- tish Literature, László Marx contends:627 There is no doubt that the prevailing social, historical and cultural circumstances have had a significant and positive effect on Burns’s reception in Hungary. Howev- er, the prime causes for his great popularity here lie in the Hungarian readers’ re- sponse to what they consider his emotional and artistic make-up. Without equating Hungarian and German “social, historical and cultural circum- stances”, a very similar statement could apply to Burns’s German reception. What has counted most has been the “readers’ response”, and that – note the qualifying phrase here – is a response to “what they consider his emotional and artistic make-up.” From the first the general and popular reception of Burns has made use of the image of an uneducated but inspired peasant poet couching his personal experiences in lively verses. And for all the criticism and correction this image has encountered, it has never faded completely and is perenially pol- ished into fresh radiance. It persists because it is popular, and because still after nearly 200 years since the poet’s...

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