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On Scottish Ground

Edinburgh, Polygon, 1998.

Author’s Preface

     When George Buchanan came back to Scotland after an extremely creative period in France, he set about "gathering his papers” and, among other things, produced his History.
     Here I have done something of the same.
     But if there are, very definitely, elements of history in these texts, it is not primarily with history that they are concerned, but with an itinerary of the mind going all the way from radical analysis to expressive activity, and with the opening, via projective cartography, of a field, the whole constituting what I think of at the moment as "an atlantic enlightenment”.
     Some of the texts here gathered were written in Scotland before I left for the Continent (they tell, among other things, why, at one point, I felt the need to leave), some were written in the  Atlantic Pyrenees, but the majority in Brittany, on the occasion of my renewed contact with the English-language world in general, and the Scottish scene in particular, from 1989 on. In the context of this book, they have been dechronologised, spatialised.
     All in all, the book offers the testimony of what you might call a Euro-Scot, in the line, say, of Duns Scot, the said George Buchanan and David Hume, to mention only three examples among many in a tradition I value highly and have tried to live up to.
     As Hume said, introducing his studies on human nature : “I was seized very early with a passion for literature, philosophy and general learning… I went over to France with a view of prosecuting my studies in a country retreat, and I there laid that plan of life which I have steadily pursued.”
     I chose to renew contact with the English-language sphere via Scotland, I’ve chosen here in this initial book of essays (the first in a series entitled globally "The Nomad Mind”) to talk about Scotland. But what I say of Scotland, with Scottish references, is, I think, with extrapolation, valid for other places. I have always considered my native place neither as nation nor as region, but as microcosm.


The Alban Project
The Archaic Context
A Shaman Dancing on the Glacier
Tam o’ Shanter : a New Reading
Into the White World
The Birds of Kentigern
Scotland, Intelligence and Culture
The Scot Abroad
The Franco-Scottish Connection
Looking Out : from Neotechnics to Geopoetics
Scotland, History and the Writer
The High Field
Talking Transformation
Kentigern on Atlantic Quay
The Fronting Shore

The beauty of Kenneth White’s idea of geopoetics is that it presents a view of the world that possesses both intellectual and emotional integrity.
High-flown conceptions are not contradicted but rather enhanced by particular expression. […] With Kenneth White’s œuvre, his profound learning, subtle percipience and nonpareil depth of imaginative field are most fully articulated in the essay books. On Scottish Ground […] is the most recent selection of the essays of an important European thinker of the west wing, walking the critical path along historical, literary and philosophical shores, seeking “forwardness, direction, value within an actionable context that is larger than the individual… a following out of multiple paths…”
On Scottish Ground is essential reading for anyone interested in the Scottish, indeed the human, question.
     Allan Levack, Scottish Book Collector

Anyone still unmoved by the imminence of the Scottish parliament might yesterday have felt a twinge of seismic cultural and intellectual shift afoot in Alba ; Kenneth White is coming home. Metaphorically that is. After thirty years of writing and teaching in France, the Glasgow-born poet, essayist and high priest of “geopoetics” is gradually laying out his extraordinary intellectual stall in English editions of his works, most recently On Scottish Ground, a fabulously wide-ranging edition of his selected essays, just published by Polygon. […]
What is great about him is that he brings all of his disciplines engagingly to life in one dense, life-affirming synthesis […]. Whatever happens in the next phase of Scottish history, let’s hope Kenneth White stays around to lead an attack on received ideas, to articulate its dilemmas and to widen the national boundaries.
     Colin Donald, The Scotsman

White, one of the most distinguished of Scottish expatriates, is a thinker of dazzling flair and importance. He electrified a capacity audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival this summer with the exhilaration he brings to difficult concepts of philology, cross-cultural fertilisation and his own multi-disciplinary philosophy of geopoetics. He demands freshness, a move out of stale, shallow nationalistic ruts. He dives back to prehistory, to wandering scholars, to a circumpolar culture through which an Atlantic wind blows.
Some of these essays in On Scottish Ground may seem to some high-falutin or esoteric. The sheer range of his reference, however, the sheer vitality of his vision, are as invigorating as that Atlantic wind. Scotland in these pre-parliament days, muttering about any number of pettinesses, needs the glorious galvanising of a Kenneth White like never before.
     Catherine Lockerbie, The Scotsman