Scottish Cultural and Political Magazines

Scottish International, Cencrastus, MsPrint, Radical Scotland: these magazines had a much larger impact than their modest circulation figures would suggest. With several other Scottish political and cultural reviews of the 1960s-90s, they were the laboratory in which new ideas, priorities, and alliances were forged in a period of sweeping change.

Working with a number of colleagues and the National Library of Scotland, I’m developing a major cross-disciplinary project on the small-circulation Scottish periodicals that significantly shaped the cultural politics of devolution. The multiple strands of this project include an edited anthology, a research network and an impact and digitisation project. For the latest, see @ScotMagsNet.


The Literary Politics of Scottish Devolution: Voice, Class, Nation

This book 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.


De-Localising Dialect

With Professor Maria Fusco (PI, Northumbria), I run an AHRC Research Network on ‘De-Localising Dialect’. This project cuts across literature, performance, theory and linguistics, and explores practices and possibilities of ‘dialect’ which go beyond the verbal embodiment of roots and origins. Instead, we conceive dialect as style, method and creative practice. Our first two events (in Glasgow and Newcastle) have featured work by and with Raman Mundair, Harry Josephine Giles, and Lisa Robertson. Our final event, in London, will be with Denise Riley. Some further details of the project are here. Audio of a related talk I did for Maria’s DIALECTY project is here.


James Kelman Monograph

My current monograph project is on James Kelman, with a focus on the lyric and ‘actional’ dimension of language in his fiction.

Building on earlier explorations of autonomous and non-representative language (‘art-speech’), it will focus on dramatic and forceful qualities of silence and ‘inner speech’ (Vološinov) in Kelman’s fiction, and connect them to aspects of his ethical and aesthetic project aligned with the Romantic tradition. The freedoms (and resistance) of stylised language both clarify and complicate his literary politics, inviting us to rethink Kelman’s realism and his complex engagement with modernism.


Narrating Scottish Devolution

Supported by the British Academy, Narrating Scottish Devolution was a research project exploring the different ways in which devolution has been explained, understood and made culturally meaningful in Scotland.

Workshop discussions among writers, critics, politicians and historians (recorded for a podcast and journal article) were particularly focused in the idea of ‘cultural devolution’ — the notion that Scottish writers and artists paved the way for the politicians, — and its influence in post-1999 governance and literary culture.


If Scotland: Posting 2014

A few weeks before the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, we held a two-day conference to imagine how the referendum might be remembered by future historians. Highlights (fully archived here, including video) include commissioned youth theatre with the BBC’s Generation 2014, and debates between writers, journalists, historians and constitutional experts. Conference proceedings were published as a special number of the Journal of Scottish Thought (co-edited with Adrian Hunter).


Unstated: Writers on Scottish Independence

This anthology invited 27 writers based in Scotland to explore the question of independence, noting the commonplace view that writers and artists had made devolution (and thus the referendum) possible.

A range of media controversies ensued, with writers from the book contributing to a number of highly engaging events throughout 2013-14.


International Journal of Scottish Literature

With Eleanor Bell and Ian Duncan I co-founded and co-edited the International Journal of Scottish Literature (2006-14).

IJSL was an attempt to do something different in Scottish literary journals, which has now gone to sleep for a bit.