4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2013
I opened this book wondering what to expect. Several hours later and having read it cover to cover, I discovered in its 74 pages, a remarkably intuitive insight into the mind-set of the indigenous Cornish.
With its striking and amusing cover design, this latest offering from Dr Kent, probably Cornwall's pre-eminent academic and author, represents an examination of the deepest held views, perceptions and outlook of many Cornish people and for me, it was like peering into a mirror. Of course, this is hardly a surprise bearing in mind Alan Kent's Cornish credentials.
Across 12 chapters, there is an examination of the Cornish and indeed Celtic feeling for a sense of place and the environment, of the strange attachment to cromlechs and stones both ancient, reconstructed and modern, of the unique linguistic traits, a mixture of language, dialect and opinion developed and used by the people, the links with the sea, the need for ancestry and folk memory, the strong, dry humour of the Cornish and their abiding view of the ancient border with South West England.
Dr Kent examines that Cornish difference - a different way of viewing life and of spiritual beliefs and ritual too; of the almost open acceptance of Pagan ways modified sometimes by Methodism and Christianity and made part of Cornwall's rich cultural calendar; the idea of Nation without State, of an outward looking European stance and of the romantic notions which have affected and become the mainstream view.
That there is a Cornwall and a Cornish way of life at all is remarkable following years of attempted assimilation by a larger and perhaps more brash and materialistic neighbour. Nevertheless, this book reveals that there is a Cornish philosophy, a Cornish view and that while this persists the Cornish will continue to exist and to constantly step up and answer the never ending calls for them to justify themselves.
A fascinating read for the Cornish, other Celts and for all those wishing to know what it is to be Cornish.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2013
Much was made in the twentieth century of `fragmentation', along with loss and lament, as characteristics of Cornwall and Cornish epistemology. The writings of Dr Alan Kent, taken as a whole, create a radical and essentially integrative, energetic and forward-moving counter-script to this discourse. He has effectively re-shaped, re-framed and re-sculpted the entire body of Cornish literature whilst greatly adding to it and systematically updating it. In this particular work, he shows us how strands of local Cornish philosophy do, in fact, integrate with, support and enrich wider Western philosophy. `Towards a Cornish Philosophy' is a truly ground-breaking work, being the very first step towards the recognition and inclusion of philosophy as an essential, valid and vital realm of research for both Cornish Studies and Celtic Studies. In addition to opening up this new and critically important field of study and exploration, it invites and challenges each one of us (whether insider or outsider ) to take stock, revise our thinking and assumptions - thereby making changes to our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours - and move on into the future. Why? - Because it matters.
The powerful twin dimensions of Dr Kent's work as creative writer and academic enable us to benefit both from his grasp of philosophical issues as they are presented within the Cornish literary continuum, and also from his analyses of the tensions and paradoxes inherent in Cornish cultural and political frames of reference. We are led on a fascinating journey through the territory, always with the sense that here is a work on philosophy that is urgent, grounded, heart-felt, integrated and totally necessary.
People are ready and hungry to know and understand more about Cornwall, including we Cornish ourselves. This key work appears at the optimum moment in the zeitgeist. It is indeed time to engage with these issues. Dr Kent has provided us with an introductory framework: the challenge now, as he explains, is whether the Cornish can make the jump from `cultural negotiations' over issues of whether we are an English county or a Celtic Nation "to a new level of awareness of direction, purpose, and place in the global community " through higher order philosophical negotiations.
This is no cosy bedside reading. This is a serious call by our foremost writer for active engagement by the Cornish for the Cornish in the burning issues of our day ie updating our thinking for the 21st century, taking responsibility, having an informed voice, being clear about our needs and what we have to offer, reviewing our sense of ourselves and also of how and where we fit into the wider community, getting real and staying real, building a knowledge-based survival script. It is also, by implication, a call for all those involved in Cornish Studies and Celtic Studies to update their knowledge and understanding of Cornwall and the Cornish in order to avert a process of ethnic cleansing by any other name. `Not-knowing' is not an option in the new cultural script.