Textual resistance, cultural legitimacy and the politics of representation in the fiction of James Kelman and William McIlvanney.
MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.
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James Kelman (b. 1946) and William McIlvanney (b. 1936) are two West of Scotland writers whose analogous themes are realised through markedly different aesthetics, form and genres. While their reception - critical and popular - varies accordingly, the mutual lodestar of the two authors’ discrete literary-political projects is a commitment to giving voice to a peripheral culture. In representing these peripheries, through fiction which focuses upon the post-industrial communities of Central Belt Scotland, Kelman and McIlvanney stage a resistance to the hegemony of late twentieth century capitalism.
This thesis examines the success of such a resistance, as class struggle becomes reified as a struggle for meaning within the texts. Foregrounded by Louis Althusser’s (1918-1990) Marxist analysis of culture and Pierre Bourdieu’s (1930-2002) notions of cultural legitimacy, the analysis focuses upon McIlvanney’s trilogy of crime fiction novels Laidlaw (1977), The Papers of Tony Veitch (1983) and Strange Loyalties (1991). In comparing these works of popular genre fiction with the literary fiction of James Kelman’s The Busconductor Hines (1984), A Disaffection (1989) and How late it was, how late (1994), the thesis moves towards an assessment of how the authors’ chosen form, genre and aesthetics facilitate or compromise their attempted resistance.
The respective authors’ textual politics of representation are discussed in detail. With special reference to the concept of the flâneur, suggestions are made as to how these modes of representation influence the manner in which their characters interact with the communities and geographies of which they are a part. Of central importance to such a discussion is the representation of the city of Glasgow.
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