Book Chapter

Democracy and the Indyref Novel



Hames S (2022) Democracy and the Indyref Novel. In: Pittin-Hédon M, Manfredi C & Hames S (eds.) Scottish Writing After Devolution: Edges of the New. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

This chapter examines the first wave of indyref novels, registering the passions and divisions of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. Drawing on Amanda Anderson’s Bleak Liberalism, it examines fictions by Allan Cameron, Effie Deans, Kirstin Innes, Mary McCabe, and Craig Smith, arguing that the modes of social representation we encounter in these texts mirror the plebiscite which inspired them. These novels tend to reproduce indyref’s tendencies toward massified speech and reified group identity, and their novelistic failures are as interesting as their historical content. Though indyref was made possible through the success of Scotland’s admirably inclusive strain of liberal nationalism, the culture of argument that defined the political novel in English – argument as a ‘lived relation’ between liberal political subjects, compromising and compromised – is seldom to be found in this fiction. Instead, dramatic interest centres on the instrumental chessboard and its word-games, a Great Debate elevated to its own discursive ‘sovereignty’, unmarked by human dialogue or ethical doubt. Straining for narrative and emotional resolution, indyref fiction mirrors the echo-chambers of contemporary social media even as they resort to weak allegory and didactic archetypes drawn from the pre-history of the modern novel.

indyref, scottish literature, scottish independence, scottish politics, devolution, contemporary literature

Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online31/03/2022
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Publisher URL…-devolution.html
Place of publicationEdinburgh

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Dr Scott Hames

Dr Scott Hames

Senior Lecturer, English Studies