Book Chapter

‘Maybe singing into yourself’: James Kelman, Inner Speech and Vocal Communion



Hames S (2016) ‘Maybe singing into yourself’: James Kelman, Inner Speech and Vocal Communion. In: Lyall S (ed.) Community in Modern Scottish Literature. Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature, 25. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, pp. 196-213.

The achievement of James Kelman is often linked to the recovery of communal voice and representative power. (This is particularly the case in Scottish critical contexts.) On the contrary, the social value of Kelman’s fiction lies in its wary resistance to ‘voice’ as a medium for the display of pre-given community and identity. His art subtly repudiates the ardent singing of readymade peoplehood, which often figures as a threat to the self-emancipation of the individual. This chapter explores a range of Kelman’s recent (post-2008) novels and stories in this light, with particular attention to the central importance – and the complex sociality – of un-expressed ‘inner speech’. Detailed close readings trace the unraveling of vocal solidarities premised on a bad or empty withness, and – from another angle – the pulling inward, and partial redemption, of the lyric subject’s fretful relation to external groupness and the illusion of consensus. Key insights of V.N. Volosinov (‘inner speech’), Benedict Anderson (‘unisonance’) and Étienne Balibar (on individual/collective emancipation) help to frame these explorations, which offer a new approach to Kelman’s politics of voice.

James Kelman; voice; inner speech; solidarity; interiority; vernacular

Title of seriesScottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature
Number in series25
Publication date30/04/2016
Publisher URL…ttish-literature
Place of publicationLeiden, Netherlands
ISSN of series1571-0734

People (1)


Dr Scott Hames

Dr Scott Hames

Senior Lecturer, English Studies