The literary politics of James Kelman
James Kelman's fiction refuses to divorce technique from substance, thought from the experience of thought, or rhetorical statements from their social points of articulation. It is therefore necessary to approach the literary politics of his work at the level of form, rather than any transcendent 'metaphysics' of writing. The dissertation is structured as a series of particular encounters: close-readings of Kelman texts which attempt to locate 'their own particular forms' in relation to specific cultural, literary and political engagements. The need to situate Kelman's work in contexts other than Scottish literary history---and indeed more productively within Scottish literary history---demands focused attention to Kelman's 'immanent' politics of form, considered in relation to social negotiations of value and authority. The modernist self-reflexivity of Kelman's work calls for a method of 'immanent critique' which 'confronts [the work] with the norms which it itself has crystallized' (Adorno), rather than with external criteria of value. Chapter One takes the complex inter-relatedness of knowledge, politics and the authority of writing in Scottish novels of education as an opportunity to orient Kelman's work to a minor but suggestive Scottish pattern. Chapter Two theorises the 'masculinity' of Kelman's technique in its relation to socialist politics of form, comparing the roles of narratorial perspective and historical consciousness in two strikingly parallel stories by Kelman and William McIlvanney. Chapters Three to Five are a sustained attempt to establish Kelman's modernism and mythopoetic credentials, via an intensive analysis of How late it was, how late in relation to Milton's Samson Agonistes. Finally, Chapter Six returns to the question of Kelman's 'realism' in relation to his most recent work, You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free, which is read simultaneously as homage to Kafka and an engagement with contemporary identity politics. Thus the 'cultural-political' questions most prominent in earlier Kelman criticism---language, authenticity, identity---are examined in a comparative literary mode which illuminates Kelman's modernist politics of form.