Hunting Captain Henley: Finding Fascism in the Reflective Voice

Kenneth Pratt


This paper explores how a reflective analysis of the literary structure of one’s own life writing can often lead to an exceptional intellectual discovery. The paper focuses on a particular narrative technique that developed during a journalistic investigation into the whereabouts of an English Army Captain who had allegedly bullied my dad in the British Army. Examples are drawn from a range of literary theorists and from the author’s own prose and critical evaluation. It is argued that the occupation of one language by another can generate a form of linguistic hyper-energy and from it the birth of what is described as Scotland’s Fascist Voice. Scots dialect’s uneasy alliance with Standard English in turn highlights Caledonian Antisyzygy, a term first coined by Gregory Smith in Scottish Literature: Character and Influence to spotlight the zigzag of contradictions at the heart of Scottish writing. The overall aim of the paper is to reveal a strong interdependence between literary theory and life writing.The subtext concludes that in isolation each offers restricted forms of expression, yet when blended can exhibit an independent intelligence free from the shackles of both conventional autobiography and traditional academic enquiry.


Fascism; Journalism; Semi-fictional autobiography; Trauma

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European Journal of Life Writing - ISSN 1876-8156 - is an open access initiative supported by the VU University Library.