Scottish Cultural and Political Magazines
Sparked by Scottish International (Review) in 1968, a range of independent magazines played a major creative role in Scottish literature, culture and politics over the next three decades. Writing in Radical Scotland in 1983, George Kerevan noted that ‘politics is no longer confined to the Establishment and Labourist agenda of economic tinkering. Cultural values represent a new Second Front’. The arena of this ‘second front’ was established – and gradually expanded – by titles such as New Edinburgh Review (from 1969), Chapman (1970), Crann-Tàra (1977), MsPrint (1978) and Cencrastus (1979). By the 1980s, these magazines had significant influence on the ‘first’ front – the field of electoral politics – in yoking together assertions of Scottish cultural identity and demands for constitutional change. Looking back, we can see post-1960s magazine culture as the laboratory in which the discourse and identity of the ‘new’ Scotland was experimentally debated, strategised and disseminated.
Working with a range of scholars in Scottish literature, history, politics and publishing, and in partnership with the National Library of Scotland, I’m developing various projects on the small-circulation Scottish periodicals that shaped the cultural politics of Scottish devolution. These include an edited anthology, a research network (with accompanying book of essays and interviews), and a planned digitisation project. For the latest, see @ScotMagsNet.
The Literary Politics of Scottish Devolution: Voice, Class, Nation
This research monograph is a cultural history and political critique of Scottish devolution (forthcoming in 2019; Edinburgh University Press). Considering a range of archival materials and critical theories, it explores how questions of ‘voice’, language and identity featured in debates leading to the new Scottish Parliament in 1999.
Tracing both the ‘dream’ of cultural empowerment and the ‘grind’ of electoral strategy, it reconstructs the influence of magazines such as Scottish International, Radical Scotland, Cencrastus and Edinburgh Review, and sets the fiction of William McIlvanney, James Kelman, Irvine Welsh, A.L. Kennedy and James Robertson within a radically altered picture of devolved Scotland.
Brilliant, trenchant, at times disconcerting, Scott Hames’s critical history of devolution offers an exemplary analysis of the interplay between cultural nationalism and practical politics. It’s essential reading for anyone who cares about the current state of Scotland. - Ian Duncan, University of California
James Kelman and Lyric Freedom:
Language, Action, Silence
My current monograph project draws together some earlier essays and ideas on James Kelman, with a focus on lyric action and subjectivity.
Kelman aligns his work with American Realist and European Existentialist traditions; both strongly informed by the Romantic valorisation of the personal, vernacular and quotidian. Viewed from this angle, Kelman’s fiction of liberty, disenchantment and the swallowed cry of protest may be productively linked to Romantic political and aesthetic ideals, and to the linguistic philosophy of ‘the Romantic performative’ (Angela Esterhammer).