This is today Raised out of history


Cairns Craig, "'This is today/Raised out of history': Kenneth White, Existentialism and the Other Side of History​​​​​​​," Scottish Journal of History 13, no. 1 (2024): 78-100


Craig, Cairns. "'This is today/Raised out of history': Kenneth White, Existentialism and the Other Side of History​​​​​​​." Scottish Journal of History 13, no. 1 (2024): 78-100

Publication life cycle / General notes

Cairns Craig analyzes TFT in light of Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Scottish existentialism.

"It was, therefore, theologians who were first challenged and inspired by Kierkegaard. It was by the route of such specifically Christian existentialism that existentialism entered into Scottish culture. In particular, Scottish theologians were among the first to respond to Karl Barth’s attempt to overthrow the historical theologies of the nineteenth century and to reassert the foundational role of faith, a theology that was inspired by Barth’s reading of Kierkegaard. Interest in Christian existentialism on the part of Scottish theologians such as Ian Henderson and Thomas Torrance led to Barth being invited to give the Gifford Tectures in Aberdeen in 1937–8. Barth’s pre-Second World War presentation of Kierkegaard’s ideas in his Gifford lectures was followed, after the war, by the lectures of Gabriel Marcel, another Christian existentialist who had, in The Philosophy of Existence (1948), undertaken a radical challenge to the then only recently published (1943) atheistic existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre."


First paragraph:

Kenneth White was by no means the only intellectual nomad who had left Scotland in the decades after the Second World War to ‘stravaig’ in other parts of the world. Helen Adam had already left for the United States in 1939 and was working with Allen Ginsberg and Robert Duncan in San Francisco; in the 1960s Muriel Spark was in New York – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie first appeared as a single issue of the New Yorker magazine in 1961 – and then in Tuscany; Alan Sharp, after the success of A Green Tree in Gedde (1965) and The Wind Shifts (1967), had abandoned his trilogy to become a script-writer in Hollywood and, later, after a life of wandering, to take up residence in New Zealand; Alexander Trocchi was in New York and Paris and London, where (in the disguise of Joe Torelli), he is the first of White’s encounters in Travels in the Drifting Dawn/Dérives (1978); Alastair Reid, who, like Muriel Spark was a contributor to the New Yorker, lived not only in New York but in Spain, Majorca (from where he eloped with one of Robert Graves’s female acolytes), the Basque Country and various parts of South America; Allan Massie was in Italy and was setting his novels both there and in France and in Argentina; Tom Nairn was in the Netherlands and in Hungary, and a large number of Scottish theologians and philosophers – such Thomas F. Torrance – were in various parts of Germany and Switzerland. This is not to mention all those Scots who had decided to make their careers in London, from novelists like James Kennaway to artists like Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, or the psychoanalyst – later described as an anti-psychoanalyst – R. D. Laing,who made his career at the Tavistock clinic in London. These were not only geographical peregrinations but travels across different intellectual territories: Muriel Spark’s trajectory took her from a Church of Scotland and Jewish background to Anglicanism and then to Roman Catholicism; theologian Tom Torrance sought a means of co-ordinating Christianity with science; Alan Spence’s Buddhism shaped a career in which his poetry (Glasgow Zen, 1981) and some of his novels draw on Japanese traditions.

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