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Tartan Noir, or, Hard-Boiled Heidegger


This essay takes up the genre of Tartan Noir, and specifically the founding text of that popular brand of detective fiction, William McIlvanney's Laidlaw, in light of the ontological theories of Martin Heidegger and Alain Badiou. The essay inverts the normative critical relationship between literature and theory, taking Laidlaw as an explanatory text for Heideggerian thought rather than the converse and in the process makes Heidegger's influence seem like a reflex of genre fiction in its sheer conventionality, even its kitsch. Badiou's ideas become useful here as they situate such conventionality relative to ideas of 'state' considered as a condition of being as well as a political entity. What, this essay asks, does Laidlaw tell us about the 'state' of the literary tradition within which it is embedded? And how might Laidlaw help us conceptualise the political state of Scotland?