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Kenneth White (1936)

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May 2011
Kenneth White is a Scottish poet, academic and writer.


Kenneth White was born in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland, but he spent his childhood and adolescence at Fairlie near Largs on the Ayrshire coast, where his father worked as a railway signalman.

White obtained a double first in French and German from the University of Glasgow. From 1959 until 1963, White studied at the University of Paris, where he obtained a state doctorate. White purchased "Gourgounel", an old farm in the Ardèche region of France, where he could spend the summers and autumns studying and working on what would become Letters from Gourgounel.

In 1963, White returned to the University of Glasgow, where he lectured in French literature until 1967. Then, disillusioned by the contemporary British literary and poetry scene, White resigned from the University and moved to the city of Pau, near the Pyrenees, in south-west France, where he lectured in English at the University of Bordeaux. White was expelled from the University after his involvement in the student protests of May 1968. After leaving the University of Bordeaux, White remained at Pau and lectured at the University of Paris VII from 1969 until 1983, when he left the Pyrenees for the north coast of Brittany, and a new position as the Chair of XXth Century Poetics at Paris-Sorbonne.

In 1989, White founded the International Institute of Geopoetics to further promote research into the cross-cultural, transdisciplinary field of study which he had been developing during the previous decade.

In October 2005, Kenneth White delivered a series of three lectures on the Geopoetics project in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The first, 'North Atlantic Investigations', was delivered at Ullapool, the second, 'Return to the Territory', was delivered at Inverness, and the third, 'A Sense of High North', was delivered at Kirkwall. Transcriptions of the three lectures were published in 2006 as a single volume titled On the Atlantic Edge.

White holds honorary doctorates from the University of Glasgow, the University of Edinburgh and the Open University. He is an honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy, and was recently appointed as a visiting professor at Scotland's UHI Millennium Institute.

Kenneth White lives near on the north coast of Brittany with his wife Marie-Claude, who is a translator and photographer.

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