Book Chapter

The New Scottish Renaissance?



Hames S (2016) The New Scottish Renaissance?. In: Boxall P & Cheyette B (eds.) The Oxford History of the Novel in English: Volume 7, British and Irish Fiction Since 1940. Oxford History of the Novel in English, 7. Oxford: Oxford University Press.〈=en&

This chapter examines the genuine boom in Scottish literary fiction during the 1980s and -90s, and the rhetoric of its presentation as a ‘new renaissance’.  With this label came remarkably strong claims for the political efficacy of the contemporary literary novel, a phenomenon that has not attracted the interest it deserves from literary historians outside Scotland. In the two decades prior to devolution, the emergence of formally ambitious Scottish novelists including Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, Iain Banks, A.L. Kennedy, Irvine Welsh, Janice Galloway, Andrew O’Hagan and Alan Warner sponsored a conflation of fiction and democracy which figured the novel as the locus of national self-representation and re-invention – as Scotland’s ‘real’ parliament prior to, and in some sense leading to, the establishment of Holyrood in 1999.  While there is clear evidence of these writers’ influence on the self-image of post-devolution Scotland, a closer examination of their fiction and its staging of ‘Scottishness’ complicates any straightforward affiliation with cultural nationalism. The ‘new renaissance’ discourse, I suggest, both inflates the social impact of these novelists and delimits the politics of their writing to the display of suppressed ‘identity’.

Scottish literature; cultural nationalism; devolution; literary renaissance

Title of seriesOxford History of the Novel in English
Number in series7
Publication date29/02/2016
PublisherOxford University Press
Publisher URL…394?cc=gb〈=en&
Place of publicationOxford

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Dr Scott Hames

Dr Scott Hames

Senior Lecturer, English Studies