Lunchtime Talk with Steve Newman on Robert Burns, Scotland’s Bard and ‘The New World’

Date / Time

  • February 7, 2023
    12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


2008-2010 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103, United States

Lunchtime Talks at The Rosenbach are sponsored by Lenore Steiner and Perry Lerner. 


  • Admission is $15. Student admission is $10. 50% off for Rosenbach members, free for the Delancey Society. Not a member? Learn more.
  • This is an in-person program at The Rosenbach. Please check your spam folder for your email confirmation. If you have questions, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].
  • Registration opens for Delancey Society members on November 14, for members on November 21, and for the general public on November 28.


In this talk, Steve Newman will draw on the Rosenbach’s collection of Robert Burns—one of the finest in the world—to explain how Burns rises from humble origins to become both Scotland’s Bard and a celebrated figure in ‘The New World,’ as well as an enduring object of fascination and critique as we grapple with the legacies of colonization, the slave trade, and empire.   

Looking at texts like “Ay Waukin O” and “A Poet’s Welcome to His Love-Begotten Daughter,” will provide insights into Burns’ depth and range as a poet as well as his willingness to challenge the sexual mores of his day.  Considering “Scots Wha Hae” and “Is There For Honest Poverty” (“A man’s a man for a’ that”), reveals how Burns uses Scots dialect to carve out a place for Scotland within an United Kingdom dominated by England and a place for a democratic vision of the future in a hierarchical time.  That he was engaged with the politics of the wider Atlantic world will be clear from considering his ode on George Washington’s birthday, his letter to Helen Maria Williams on the slave trade, and “On a Scotch Bard Gone to the West Indies.” We will conclude with a brief consideration Burns’ reception in the United States—published in countless American editions, cherished by Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Maya Angelou, collected by Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach, and interrogated in Shara McCallum’s recent No Ruined Stone (2021), which imagines that Burns actually did follow through on his plan to travel to Jamaica, where he would have been directly enmeshed in the slave system.    

This journey through the Rosenbach’s collection of Burns will help us see why Lord Byron was moved to exclaim that his fellow Scot was a mix of “sentiment, sensuality – soaring and grovelling – dirt and deity – all mixed up in that compound of inspired clay!” 

About the Speaker 

Steve Newman is Associate Professor of English at Temple University, where he was won multiple teaching awards.  Robert Burns figures centrally into his book, Ballad Collection, Lyric, and the Canon: The Call of the Popular from the Restoration to the New Criticism (Penn Press), a recent article in Global Romanticism (Bucknell University Press), a forthcoming article from Blackwell, and his book-in-progress, Time for the Humanities:  Competing Narratives of Value from the Scottish Enlightenment to the 21st Century Academy.  His edition of The Gentle Shepherd was published this year as the inaugural volume of the Edinburgh University Press edition of The Works of Allan Ramsay, and he heads up a digital humanities project on The Beggar’s Opera. He recently served as the President of Temple’s faculty union, the Temple Association of University Professionals (AFT #4531). 

About Lunchtime Talks at The Rosenbach 

Enjoy In Conversation Programs at midday with leading scholars, artists, and authors talking about their work. Tea sandwiches and light refreshments included. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *