The Reclusive Puppeteer: Narrative Methodology in James Kelman’s 'How Late It Was, How Late'

Scott, Jeremy (2006) The Reclusive Puppeteer: Narrative Methodology in James Kelman’s 'How Late It Was, How Late'. In: Contemporary Writing Environments, June 2006 , University of Sheffield. (Unpublished) (Access to this publication is restricted)

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This paper will approach Kelman’s booker-prize winning novel How Late It Was, How Late from two distinct but interrelated angles: firstly, the cultural environment out of which the novel was written (working-class Glasgow) and secondly, the novel’s distinctive narrative methodology, which attempts to reappropriate and then renegotiate the convention of the so-called third-party voice. The paper will proceed from the assumption that the latter is indisputably a product of the former, and will attempt to assess the relative potentialities and pitfalls of this writer’s methodological ethos. Kelman’s writing implicitly disputes assumptions arising from ‘accents of economics’, and occupies (more arguably) a nationalist position with regard to the deployment of demotic Scottish voices in English literature. The controversy surrounding Kelman’s award of the Booker Prize for How Late It Was, How Late provides a useful distillation of these issues, illustrates the reception of the novel within certain parts of the perceived ‘literary establishment’ and highlights one of the central issues of contention: the relationship in fiction between the ‘oral’ and the ‘written’. Analysis of these complex issues will lend weight to the conclusion that if for Kelman language is ideological, then so, inescapably, is narrative methodology. Kelman’s fiction as a whole is underpinned by an acknowledgement of the inextricable relationship between technique and fictional environment, and his writing attempts to enact through fiction some possible solutions to perceived social, cultural and political injustices. However, some very complex and troubling paradoxes can arise when writers to attempt to ‘speak for’ a target constituency. In How Late It Was, How Late Kelman asserts the ability of his working class protagonist to articulate his own ipseity, yet does so, arguably, in a way which that protagonist might himself find inimical.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: Fictional Technique, James Kelman, Contemporary British Fiction, Contemporary Scottish Fiction, Narratology, Postcolonial, Demotic Discourse
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Jeremy Scott
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2008 18:11
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2013 11:12
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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