Literary trio appointed to creative writing chair

Published: 22 May 2001

Alasdair Gray, James Kelman and Tom Leonard have been appointed Professors of Creative Writing, attached to the School of English and Scottish Language and Literature.

Alasdair Gray, James Kelman and Tom Leonard have been appointed jointly to the Chair of Creative Writing, attached to the School of English and Scottish Language and Literature.

Professor Willy Maley, of the department of English Literature at the University, said: "This is a stunning appointment of three of the most important writers ever produced in Scotland. It is a dream appointment that you could not have imagined if you were writing about it.

"They have shown that Scotland is capable of great literature by producing it. They have done much more than put Scotland firmly on the map of world literature. They have changed the critical climate as well as shaping the literary landscape.

"Their energetic interventions on debates around language and identity have been central to a renewed confidence in Scottish writing. Together, they cover all of the major genres and forms - biography, drama, including radio, screen, and theatre, essays, poetry, novels, novellas, and short stories."

Alasdair Gray's novels, in particular Lanark and Poor Things, succeeded in putting Glasgow on the global stage as well as revolutionising the postwar novel. Lanark won the Saltire and David Niven Awards, and is rightly regarded as one of the most influential and important literary works of the twentieth century. Poor Things picked up the Guardian and Whitbread Awards, and was highly praised for its innovative and experimental form, and for its reworking of classic and contemporary motifs from Victorian Gothic to postmodern pastiche. Gray's non-fiction is steeped in the same creative spirit as his fiction. His ruminations on Scottish history and independence - passionate, profound and precise - have contributed considerably to critical discussion on the future of the nation, and his monumental Book of Prefaces provides a comprehensive and exceptionally erudite history of literature, authoritatively annotated and beautifully illustrated.

James Kelman's novel How late it was, how late won the 1994 Booker prize, the most prestigious literary award in Britain, and walked away with the title of Writers Guild Best Fiction Book. A Disaffection was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1989 and won The James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Kelman's short story collections have also earned accolades. Greyhound for Breakfast won the Cheltenham Prize in 1987 and The Good Times received the Scottish Writer of the Year and Spirit of Scotland Awards in 1999. His plays have been performed to capacity audiences, and he has been involved in a series of public campaigns, illustrative of his belief in the role of the artist as being one of commitment, dissent, intervention, opposition and engagement. Kelman has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Texas and at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Tom Leonard is one Scotland's leading poets and essayists, whose work repeatedly addresses the politics of language and power in Britain, and has ranged in form from pamphlet protests against military engagements, to experiments in concrete and sound poetry. He shared the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award in 1984 for his influential collection Intimate Voices, a breakthrough volume for poetry in Scots, opening the doors of language, class and culture. Leonard's 1990 anthology Radical Renfrew was hailed by The Herald as "the most significant event in Scottish poetry for a very long time", and gives voice to a forgotten tradition of radical verse, brought to light through detailed archival work. Leonard's account of the life and art of James Thomson broke new ground in biography and criticism, and exemplifies Leonard's intimate engagement with other artists as a writer responding to writers.

Professor Maley added: "Professors Gray, Kelman, and Leonard are arguably the most powerful and influential combination of writers working today, utterly distinctive in their voices, but with a shared democratic vision. All are committed to making art accessible without compromising on aesthetic or political integrity. The three together are friends, fellow artists and formidable critics in their own right, actively intervening in local, national, and international debates on culture and politics, particularly in their common concern with anti-elitist forms of representation.

. "Together, Gray, Kelman and Leonard created the post they have filled when they proposed a job share that answered the University's need for high-profile writers who would be able to continue with their own work as well as contributing to the highly successful creative writing programme being pioneered by the University of Glasgow along with the University of Strathclyde under the auspices of the Edwin Morgan Centre."

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For further information contact University Press Office on 0141 330 3535 or Professor Maley on 0141 330 2559

First published: 22 May 2001

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