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The Modern Scottish Novel

Narrative and the National Imagination

Cairns Craig

Paperback (Printed to Order)

In the last quarter century, Scottish novelists from Muriel Spark, Alasdair Gray and Allan Massie to James Kelman, Janice Galloway, A.L. Kennedy and Irvine Welsh have achieved significant international success. In The Modern Scottish Novel Cairns Craig shows how the work of such writers is constructed by a powerful national tradition in the novel, formed in the first decades of the century by writers such as John Buchan, Nan Shepherd, Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Neil Gunn, a tradition whose distinctive thematic and formal concerns have shaped a unique contribution to the novel in English. Tracing the influence of Scotland's political and social history on its novelists from the 1890s to the 1990s, Craig argues that the Scottish novel has had to develop a highly specific set of formal techniques to cope with a situation in which the dominance of the English language is challenged by the survival of the rich inheritance of Scots speech, and in which the continuing effects of Calvinism imply that all fiction is necessarily deceitful, when not actually diabolic. Craig also sets the Scottish novel in the specific traditions of Scottish intellectual life - from J.G. Frazer to John Macmurray and R.D. Laing. The Modern Scottish Novel provides the intellectual and artistic context for some of the most exciting and challenging contemporary writing in English.

About the Author

Cairns Craig is Director of the AHRC Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen. His books include Yeats, Eliot, Pound and the Politics of Poetry (1982), Out of History (1996), The Modern Scottish Novel (1999), Associationism and the Literary Imagination (2007). He was general editor of the four-volume History of Scottish Literature (1987-9) and has been on the editorial boards of Cencrastus, Radical Scotland, Edinburgh Review and the Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies.


An ambitious, impressive and hugely enjoyable exploration of the recurrent themes, concerns and styles of modern Scottish novels, from John Buchan and Neil Gunn to the more recent flourishing of Scottish writing from A. L. Kennedy, Alasdair Gray, Janice Galloway, James Kelman, Irvine Welsh, Muriel Spark and many others ... a reliable and rewarding study of Scottish fiction, an outstanding contribution to research and understanding of Scottish literary studies.
An illuminating study.
- Choice
With this intelligent, challenging and provcative study of the defining characteristics of the modern - and not so modern - Scottish novel, Cairns Craig has made a major contribution to the ever-changing debate regarding the relationship of Scottish traditions to individual creative talents … I believe we will come to regard this study as taking its place amongst the all too few major landmarks of Scottish cultural criticism … its over-riding success lies not so much on its individual arguments - though these are always stimulating and fresh, if often controversial - but in its sheer scale and range of thought and challenge ... This ground-breaking discussion of the defining characteristics of modern Scottish fiction will undoubtedly lie at the centre of debate concerning issues of fiction and its place in the making of Scottish national myth and identity for a long time to come … original, perceptive and provocative.
It is, by a very long way, the most important book on the subject to date.
This is good gutsy stuff: the sort of thesis that will energise countless seminars.
- Christopher Harvie
Craig's text offers an insightful, fresh approach to the modern Scottish novel. The broad range of texts that he covers and the multiple themes he traces would provide a helpful critical text to a general course on the modern Scottish novel. For a more specific course, Craig's text would provide a firm and engaging frame of study for Scottish literature courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
- Brooke McLaughlin