Smith, Sarah (2018) Addicted to Violence: A Network of Extreme Masculinity in Irvine Welsh’s Francis Begbie. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Welsh is “infamous for his representations of men and masculinity, most notoriously his ‘hard men’” (Jones, 2010; p.54), who “effectively highlight[s] and problematise[s] our own contemporary anxieties regarding unstable gender roles in transition” (p.54). Masculine anxiety is a broad term which perhaps, in one way or another, can be applied to the thematic content of the majority of Welsh’s fiction, but begins to undermine the complexity of Welsh’s characters and the temporal and physical landscape in which they are situated. These generalisations inspire questions rather than reliable conclusions. Are the issues of failing national identity an integral counterpart of the postmodern fragmentation of masculinity and its hegemonic forms, and as such are they causal instigators of deviant psychologies and violence within Welsh’s ‘hard men’, or, as this thesis suspects, is there a more complicated relationship between place, heritage and psychology?

Borrowing from (without strictly following) Actor Network Theory’s methodology in which a network of actors is explored in relation to their connections and influences upon one another, the understanding of masculine violence can explored in detail, providing a thorough insight into Begbie’s psychological identity which has been previously lacking from critical literature in the dismissal of his character as a “proto-typical hard man” (McGuire, 2010; p.9), unworthy of further study beyond this limited observation of violent masculinity in operation. Given Begbie’s revival within The Blade Artist, and the recent release of T2 Trainspotting, it becomes ever more pertinent to give consideration to the complexity of his character beyond the “often comical cartoon figure of the film [Trainspotting]” (Morace, 2007; p.127) and the standard ticket of ‘Scottishness’ adhered to his specific breed of psychopathic intensity.

Considering masculinity’s hegemonic associations which physiological gender, to its complicated relationship with sociocultural structures and national identity, alongside the pervasive possibility for a mental predisposition for depravity that falls within the classification of legitimate psychopathy, this body of work will use Francis Begbie as a conduit through which to explore the creation of a hyperbolic cocktail of violent masculine identity. This thesis will dismantle the general understanding of male violence in accordance with broad homogenous structures of masculinity within Welsh’s fiction, specifically in its depiction of the network topography of Francis Begbie’s masculine identity, the function of violence within his character, and his subsequent expression of potentially psychopathic behaviour.

Smith FINAL THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
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