Traditions of song: Considering Moore’s Irish Melodies in relation to the songs of Robert Burns

  • Sheila Rooney

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMaster of Philosophy


This thesis examines traditions in Irish and Scottish song with the aim of offering a context for the Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies and Robert Burns’songs. It also explores points of intersection and divergence in both content and methodology between the two songwriters and the national music traditions of which their songs form a part. The introduction sets out observations and patterns in criticism on both Moore and Burns as well as offering a bibliographic overview of their lives and musical development.

Chapter one considers the way in which Moore and Burns’songs problematise racial profiling by both travel writers who stressed the barbarity of the Irish and Scottish, but also challenged antiquarian preoccupation with attempting to redress these assertions of barbarity by glorifying historical achievements –particularly those of a musical or literary nature –of the Irish and Scottish. Chapter two draws attention to the fact that observations made of Irish love song are often applicable to Scottish song before proceeding to examine how Moore’s and Burns’songs manifest and subvert qualities identified within the Irish love-song tradition. Chapter three identifies methods used to depict landscape and naturein Irish and Scottish song and the degree to which Moore and Burns employ similar strategies or deviate from the existing song practise. Ultimately, by undertaking close ‘readings’ of their songs, this thesis aims to highlight what separates and unifies the songs of Moore and Burns from material produced by their predecessors, contemporaries and successors and in so doing, hopes to contribute to the recognition or, in Moore’s case, restoration of each as Bard of their respective nations.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMoyra Haslett (Supervisor) & Daniel Roberts (Supervisor)

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