On Vernacular Scottishness and its Limits: Devolution and the Spectacle of 'Voice'



Hames S (2013) On Vernacular Scottishness and its Limits: Devolution and the Spectacle of 'Voice'. Studies in Scottish Literature, 39 (1), pp. 201-222, Art. No.: 16.

'Voice' has been a key motifs in Scottish literary and political discourse of the past few decades. This article explores the ambivalence of voice as a trope for national expression and empowerment, and considers the complex appeal of "vernacular" rhetoric during the period, and within the limits, of Scottish devolution. In critical discourse which elides literary and democratic claims to voice during this period, Scottish vernacular writing functions both as a soulful emblem of suppressed agency, and a flexible "display identity" within a spectacle of cultural difference. Conceiving devolution as a granting-of-voice on these terms, I argue, tends to re-inscribe the containment logic of 1970s UK centralism, releasing/locking Scottish cultural production into reified postures of "representation" which leave uncontested the constitution of representative power. The ambivalence of 'voice' and the complex interplay of over-lapping rhetorics of Scottish 'vernacularity' (democratic, romantic, identitarian) are examined with particular reference to two key novelists of the 'new Scottish renaissance', James Kelman and Irvine Welsh.

vernacular; devolution; voice; Scottish parliament; Scottish nationalism; Scottish identity; Scots language; Irvine Welsh; James Kelman; Alex Salmond

Studies in Scottish Literature: Volume 39, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2013
Publication date online08/2013
Date accepted by journal24/02/2013
PublisherUniversity of South Carolina
Publisher URL

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Dr Scott Hames

Dr Scott Hames

Senior Lecturer, English Studies