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Mediating the World in the Novels of Iain Banks

The Paradigms of Fiction


Katarzyna Pisarska

This book offers a detailed analysis of all mainstream novels of Iain Banks. It explores the question of mediation, the process of a semiotic (re)construction of the world on the part of Banks’s characters, with reference to the four directions of fictional worldmodelling, i.e. the four types of relationship between the individual and the world established by the author’s first novel, The Wasp Factory. In order to give justice to the extremely eclectic novelistic production of Iain Banks, the analysis of fifteen of his novels contained in the present study employs diverse interpretative «tools», fusing elements of various methodologies: structural-semiotic analysis supplemented by a mythographic approach along with psychological and gender specific theories.
Mediating the World in the Novels of Iain Banks: The Paradigms of Fiction thus develops a critical paradigm capable of uniting the extremely versatile mainstream production of this Scottish writer.
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Introduction. The Case of Iain (M.) Banks


Iain Banks, an internationally recognized, contemporary British novelist, whose death on 9 June 2013 interrupted his successful career, had never forgotten his Scottish roots. In an interview for Spike Magazine in 1996, he admitted: “I’m Scottish and a writer so I’m a Scottish writer” (Mitchell). The statement may come across somewhat as a syllogism; however, it gives us an insight into the author’s own idea of his Scottishness and of the place he occupied on his country’s literary scene. In his view, both questions seemed to be linked, first and foremost, with his provenance and the place of residence rather than with his close affiliation with the prevailing trends and the climate of literary changes in Scotland. This view is perhaps not surprising, as Iain Banks regarded himself primarily as a writer of science fiction, who usually spent his time with other SF writers (Mitchell 1996), and whose main objective was the rehabilitation of science fiction. In his opinion, this aim would be attained once a science fiction novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize (Alegre 2000: 198).

Another yardstick for measuring Banks’s contribution to Scottish literature was, he suggested, the degree to which he employed Scottish settings and characters and addressed particularly Scottish themes and concerns in his books. Asked to determine his own place among contemporary Scottish writers, he offered rather commonsensically:

I think it’s more of a sliding scale, a spectrum of Scottishness, someone like James Kelman or Alasdair Gray at one end...

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