Scottish Studies 1
This is the first part in a series on the idea of Scottish Studies which ‘Labour front-runner’ Ken McIntosh described as “brainwashing” and Joan McAlpine describes in somewhat more eloquent terms here (see video).
“My culture and my language have a right to exist and no-one has the right to dismiss that…” said James Kelman after being described by (Sir) Simon Jenkins’s as an “illiterate savage” after winning the (1994) Booker Prize.
As Scott Hames, author of The Edinburgh Companion to James Kelman wrote on the incident: “A large section of the British intelligentsia responded, John Linklater observed, with “a suppuration of racist, xenophobic class hatred”. As Hames pointed out: “Even Jenkins’s colleagues at the London Times were bewildered by the ferocity of Kelman’s detractors. “From some of the English reaction,” Alan Chadwick observed, “you might have thought he had been found in the Queen’s bedroom.” But the Scottish reaction, too, Hames continues, was less than enthusiastic:
“A former lord provost of Glasgow, Dr. Michael Kelly, boasted of having “no intention” of reading the first (and to date only) Scottish winner of the prize but deplored the novel’s language and politics nonetheless. Kelman’s sudden cachet as a left-wing agitant even caught the attention of the shadow chancellor. Eager to shake an already dour public image, but ever wary of appearing too Scottish, too socialist, or too intellectual, Gordon Brown let it be known that he “hadn’t made it to the end” of the book in question.”
It’s this mixture of the exotic other as portrayed by the British establishment and the cultural self-hatred expressed by the Scottish establishment that shows that Kelman must be on to something.
It’s in this context that we celebrate the launch of The Red Cockatoo – see here for full details.