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Title: Existentialism in the novels of James Kelman
Author: Nicoll, Laurence
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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There has to date been no attempt at a detailed explication of James Kelman's novels from a consistently existential standpoint: this thesis constitutes an attempt to do so. Whilst a number of the critical responses engendered by Kelman's work mention the presence of existentialist motifs, this is usually done in passing. My central claim however is that it is impossible to comprehend Kelman's fictions without a thorough understanding and appreciation of the extent to which existential concerns inform both his fictional and critical work. I argue that a consequence of viewing Kelman as an existential writer is that the critical debate surrounding his work must be relocated and positioned outwith the dual contexts of nation and nationalism. Chapter one delineates the constitutive elements of Kelman's existential aesthetic, focusing on five pivotal concerns: tradition, freedom, the everyday, locality and narrative. The next chapter considers several classic texts in the existential literary tradition, Notes from Underground, The Trial, The Outsider and Nausea. The techniques and themes brought out here, along with the observations generated in chapter one, provide a prism through which to read Kelman's novels. Ensuing chapters both build upon and refer back to this preparatory material. Chapter three analyses A Chancer, in terms of its narrative mode and how this relates to the existential theme of contingency which permeates the text. Next, I consider the role of the existential issues of temporality, negation and 'the nothing' in The Busconductor Hines. Chapter five examines A Disaffection, reading the novel in terms of Camusian absurdity and Kierkegaard's criticisms of Hegel. Chapter six is a reading of How Late it Was, How Late, which treats the novel as a fictional exposition of Sartre's theory of 'the look'. The final chapter offers some conclusions and criticisms, and considers the implications of Kelman's existential position, particularly with regard to what might be termed 'cultural nationalism'. Here I also assess Kelman's place within the tradition of the committed intellectual.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available