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James Kelman

Politics and Aesthetics

Series:

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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‘Abject Misery’ 57 ‘Acid’ 202 Adorno, T.W. 3, 5, 6–7, 16–19, 37, 40, 42–6, 56, 96, 110–11, 120–1, 126, 128, 145, 146, 157–8, 163, 186–8, 207–8 aesthetics 1–10, 11–12, 17–29, 64–5, 71, 85–6, 124–63, 188, 209 Althusser, Louis 151, 174 Amis, Martin 10 anarchism 14–15, 28–9, 67 Aristotle 20–1, 84 Armah, Ayi Kwei 103 Austen, Jane 10, 152 authenticity 8, 38–42, 110–13 Baker, Simon 147 Bakhtin, M.M. 89–92 Balzac, Honoré de 116 Barthes, Roland 33–4, 36, 41, 125, 158–9 Baudrillard, Jean 169–70, 182 Beckett, Samuel 13, 28, 61, 64–7, 142, 188 Benjamin, Walter 14–15, 37, 154–7 Berger. John 172 Blair, Tony 31 Bloch, Ernst 152 ‘Block, The’ 61–4, 67–8, 69, 87, 98 Böhnke, Dietmar 218 Bolitho, William 193–4 bourgeois ideology 33–4, 38–42, 64–5, 68, 72, 76, 95–7, 100, 102, 115–17, 125–6, 139–40, 149–50, 206–7, 209–10, 216–17, 220 Boyle, Danny 36 Burchill, Julie 41–2 Burn, The 34, 147, 191 Burns, Robert 10 Busconductor Hines, The 39–40, 52, 53, 57, 68–9, 74–7, 93–6, 99–101, 102–3, 176–7, 199, 202, 203, 213 ‘By The Burn’ 191–2, 217 Byatt, A.S. 134 Callaghan, James 30 Callinicos, Alex 182–3 Camus, Albert 102, 105–7, 179 capitalism 1, 3, 18, 30–3, 37–9, 42–3, 48...

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