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Ideas of Order at Cape Wrath

The tentative contours of a political, intellectual and cultural paradigm
Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies.
University of Aberdeen, 2013.

Publisher's presentation

As in all his essay writing, Ideas of Order at Cape Wrath investigates the intersections between literature, science, philosophy, and the cultural histories which shape individual existence, exploring the many ways in which geopoetics can both illuminate and challenge the world in which we live.

Following in the tracks of intellectual nomads like himself, from Celtic monks moving out across Western Europe, to Arthur Rimbaud's tracks in Abyssinia, White charts a networkl of cross-connections between explorers of new territories, both physical and psychological. He also sets out to situate his own work in its local, Scottish environment and to see that environment in a cosmic scale, seeking the "edge-knowledge" from which a new paradigm for cultural understanding can emerge.

Ideas of Order at Cape Wrath will confirm White's reputation as the most inportant Scottish poet-thinker since Hugh MacDiarmid, and as one of the contemporary world's most radical intellectuals.
Order is a fundamental word, and, for that very reason, difficult to handle.
If the word often has bad press, it’s because the only sense of order that’s been around has been restrictive if not oppressive. The general notion of order is that of a series of rules and regulations. With that notion and practice, you wind up with stodgy orderliness on the one hand and disorderly agitation on the other, and nothing very interesting in between. […]
The conception of order I have in mind and want to illustrate is one of rhythms and patterns. It’s an order-disorder, disorder-order, a cosmos still close to chaos, a chaosmos. Like the distinction Needham (Science and Civilisation in China) makes between law (regulative imposition) and li (correlative coordinativeness) – as in non-linear dynamics. […]   
If I’ve chosen to situate these considerations on order at Cape Wrath, it’s for several reasons.
First, to maintain and render more and more evident the relation between mind and land, between thought and territory, which lies at the basis of what I have called geopoetics. […]
Secondly, because the sense that Cape Wrath gives of being in an extreme situation, a solitude, an isolation : analogously, the kind of situation that any thinker-poet of any worth finds himself in at one time or another, and sometimes all the time. […]
Thirdly, because of the etymology of the name. If “wrath” is taken at its face value, with the sense of “anger”, it can convey the kind of cold anger that is an appropriate state of mind concerning certain political, ecological and cultural situations existing on our planet in general and in Scotland in particular. But a little knowledge of linguistics will make it clear that the original meaning of “wrath” in this name place has nothing to do with anger, everything to do with an old Norse word meaningturning point (it was the turning point for Norse navigators coursing down to Scotland’s west coast and Ireland).[…]
 The kind of order I’ve just described seems to me a fundamental in the best Scottish thought and writing, and science. Away back in the days of the Enlightenment, Francis Horner said of Henry Brougham that he was « an uncommon genius, of a composite order ».

Extrait du chapitre "Ideas of Order at Cape Wrath"