In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

vii Introduction Writing about Scottish culture in the 1980s and 1990s, Cairns Craig developed the concept of a ‘national imagination’ to describe what Scottish literature was most in need of. Faced with a situation of ‘historylessness’, ‘a world where history has no meaning’,1 artists in Scotland were described as needing to create a connection between individuals’ personal lives, and ‘the larger trajectory of the life of the community from which they [drew] their significance ’.2 This concept of a national imagination captures the essential nature of late twentieth century Scottish literature, because it intertwines nationalism , politics, the idea of the nation and of representation as well as an underlying goal of increased cultural visibility. The extent and intricacy of the interdependence of the political and the literary, going back, in recent history, to Tom Nairn’s 1977 book The Break-up of Britain, have led to the argument by a majority of commentators that where the political process failed in Scotland, the arts have led the way, showing a possible avenue for Scottish identity, sometimes Scottish nationalism, indeed for the very existence of Scotland as a culture and a nation. The argument has historically been up against quite a lot of passive, or even sometimes overtly active negation or opposition, both inside and outside Scotland, as testified for example by Richard Bradford’s very assertive rejection of the notion of a Scottish renaissance in his 2007 book, The Novel Now: Contemporary British Fiction, which dismisses Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting claiming provocatively, but rather arbitrarily, that the characters in this novel ‘bespeak Scotland’s virtual extinction’.3 Five years after The Modern Scottish Novel, another volume, Scotland in Theory: Reflections on Culture and Literature, edited by Eleanor Bell and Gavin Miller, gathers contributions from significant commentators on Scottish history, politics and culture, such as Tom Nairn, Cairns Craig, and Christopher Harvie. Many of its chapters theorise the link between politics and the arts in Scotland. Harvie emphasises the fundamental role of Scottish writers in the crucial period from the renaissance of Scottish culture through the years leading up to devolution by taking up the argument that in the viii the space of fiction absence of political democracy during the period, it was left to literature to explore the interconnections of power in a devolved Scotland. The assumption that writers have created or in any event underwritten devolution, an idea summed up in the somewhat proactive title of one of Craig’s papers, ‘No Nationality Without Literature’,4 surfaces in many other publications to the extent that it has now become a critical commonplace. For instance Angus Calder, in Scotlands of the Mind, states that many political victories in Scotland in the late years of the twentieth century (such as the demise of the conservative party) can be attributed to actors of the literary world,5 and writers themselves acknowledge this interaction by stating, in the words of Duncan McLean speaking in the wake of the setting up of the Scottish Parliament, that ‘there’s been a parliament of novels for years’.6 Tom Leonard even more categorically states the artists’ role in bringing about a parliament for Scotland in the 1999 issue of the Edinburgh Review: What influence will the Scottish Parliament have on Scottish Writing? Very little. The influence will be the other way around. After all, hasn’t Scottish writing been one of the major causes in bringing the Scottish Parliament into existence?7 And indeed, the context for such assertions has been one of creative explosion in Scotland in the last thirty years. The literary scene in particular has come a long way from the days not so long ago when Iain Banks was reduced to using a sort of arithmetical formula to bear witness to the very existence of Scotland as a valid and valuable place for fiction to come from.8 But this is not to say that literature can (or indeed should) be substituted for politics, or that literature took over in Scotland in the absence of political will. There is very little hard evidence to justify the claim, and many writers are equally impatient with this assertion. Janice Galloway, for instance, makes this clear: Cross-fertilised soil is always richer, and it might help get us off some of the rather tedious single-track roads this country’s writers are often expected to go down. Who wants to write about nation all the bloody time? To write through it, take it for granted...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.