In “After Scotland: Irvine Welsh and the Ethic of Emergence,” the author’s objective is to mirror what he argues is the Scottish writer Irvine Welsh’s objective: to chart out a future Scotland guided by a generative life ethic. In order to achieve this objective, the author lays open and reengages Scotland’s past, discovers and commits to neglected or submerged materials and energies in its past, demonstrates how Welsh’s work is faithful to those and newly produced materials and energies, and suggests that Welsh’s use of those materials and energies enables readers to envision a new Scotland that will be integral to an alternative postmodern world that countervails one ruled by late capital.
Each chapter builds toward a Marxist ethic of emergence, which is composed of four virtues uncovered in Scotland’s historical-material fabric: congregation, integration, emergence, and forgiveness. To bring these virtues to the surface, the author historically grounds Welsh’s novels and short stories—Trainspotting, Glue, Porno, Filth, “The Granton Star Cause,” “The Two Philosophers,” and Marabou Stork Nightmares. Through this historiographical process, each virtue is uncovered and analyzed in the context of a particular historical period: medieval, Reformation, Enlightenment, and postmodern. Each context presents a unique set of materials and energies; each also presents an epistemological and ethical focus. The author brings the first three contexts and virtues together to formulate the ethic of emergence within the postmodern context. Throughout, the author stresses how this ethic and each of its virtues are embedded in Welsh’s work and in Scotland’s historical-material fabric. The author then suggests what he and Welsh hope will emerge from that fabric according to such an ethic.
Because Welsh is a contemporary writer who has gained relatively little attention from literary scholars, another aim of this study is to situate Welsh’s work by connecting it with literature produced inside and outside of the Scottish and postmodern contexts: e.g. Gaelic prehistorical and epic literature, Chaucer, morality plays, Robert Burns, and the modern mystery genre.
The author concludes the study with an afterword, relating his project to recent events that have occurred in Scottish politics.