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James Kelman

Politics and Aesthetics


Aaron Kelly

This study argues that James Kelman’s work should not be construed as a resigned capitulation to capitalist domination or to the fracture of a once unified working-class collective purpose. Politics are to be found not only in the content but also the form of Kelman’s work. The radical aspect of his style is that rather than pandering to a ready-made identity, he remains antagonistically non-identical to the prevailing logic of capitalism by contesting its supposedly shared worldview and modes of perception. Instead, Kelman’s fiction continually disputes the notion of consensus by revealing the voices of those excluded, those who are unaccounted for in that false consensus. His work uncovers a stark contradiction in the governing logic of our times: we are asked to accept that class has disappeared at the same time that we are told the system that causes it in the first place – capitalism – is inevitably here forever. Even the most alienated individuals in his stories remind us that isolation can transcend itself by returning us to the social conditions that are its cause. We find politics in Kelman’s aesthetics, as his work formally contests who has the right to feel, to think, to speak.


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AC A Chancer AD A Disaf fection AO An Old Pub Near the Angel B The Burn BH The Busconductor Hines GB Greyhound For Breakfast GT The Good Times HB Hardie and Baird & Other Plays HL How Late It Was, How Late II If It Is Your Life KS Kieron Smith, Boy NN Not Not While the Giro. TA Translated Accounts: A Novel YH You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free The abundance of real suf fering tolerates no forgetting … Yet this suf fering, what Hegel called consciousness of adversity, also demands the continued existence of art while it prohibits it; it is now virtually in art alone that suf fering can still find its own voice, consolation, without immediately being betrayed by it. — Theodor Adorno No, rather than art should live this poor, thin life among a few excep- tional men, despising those beneath them for an ignorance for which they themselves are responsible, for a brutality that they will not strug- gle with – rather than this I would that the world should indeed sweep away all art for a while. — William Morris They don’t want libraries, give them a circus. — Lord Salisbury The only education is an education by truths. — Alain Badiou

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