Ethically Speaking

Voice and Values in Modern Scottish Writing


As politics and cultures interact within an increasingly diverse Scotland, and differences in values become more evident across generations, the need for clear understanding and cooperation within and between communities becomes a pressing issue. This relates both to local and larger concerns: language, violence, morality, gender and sexuality, education, ethnicity, truth and lies. The chapters gathered here focus on significant Scottish writers of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries, (Edwin Morgan, A.L. Kennedy, Liz Lochhead, John Burnside, Jackie Kay, Robin Jenkins, Muriel Spark, William McIlvanney, Ali Smith, James Kelman and others) and the communities described are certainly Scottish, but the issues raised are universal. Questions are asked about the relationship of the individual to others, and therefore, on a larger scale, about the means through which any community is both constructed and sustained: linguistically, spiritually, ethically.
If their multiple voices evoke a “zigzag of contradictions”, it is at any rate a creative zigzag which discovers, or uncovers, many contradictory aspects of life in modern Scotland that should particularly be brought to light in a re-emergent nation. Ethically speaking, Scottish writers point out the need to attend to many different narratives and retellings, in order that Scots might live more honestly and clear-sightedly with themselves and with the wider world.

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James McGonigal is Professor of English in Education at the University of Glasgow and Kirsten Stirling lectures in English Literature at the University of Lausanne.
Contributors James MCGONIGAL and Kirsten STIRLING: Introduction John CORBETT: “Nae mair pussyfuttin. Ah’m aff, Theramenes”: Demotic Neoclassical Drama in Contemporary Scotland Kirsten STIRLING: “Lying is good like this”: The Collaborative Lie in the Early Fiction of A.L. Kennedy Gerard CARRUTHERS: The Relativity of Experience in William McIlvanney’s The Kiln Anne-Kathrin BRAUN-HANSEN: Resignifying HiStories: The Subversive Potential of Revision in Liz Lochhead’s Poetry Ingibjörg ÁGÚSTSDÓTTIR: Ethics of War in the Fiction of Robin Jenkins Jordana BROWN: Finding Her Religion: The Search for Spiritual Satisfaction in Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar Suhayl SAADI: Songs of the Village Idiot: Ethnicity, Writing and Identity Edwin MORGAN in Conversation with James MCGONIGAL: Gay Writing in Scotland: An Interview with Edwin Morgan Kirsty WILLIAMS: “A Different Kind of Natural”: The Fiction of Jackie Kay and Ali Smith Scott BREWSTER: Beating, Retreating: Violence and Withdrawal in Iain Banks and John Burnside Beth DICKSON: “Pathetic Reminders”? The Idea of Education in Modern Scottish Fiction James MCGONIGAL: Translating God: Negative Theology and Two Scottish Poets Index