Writing as Enlightenment: Buddhist American Literature into the Twenty-first Century

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Explores the prevalence of Buddhist ideas in American literature since the 1970s.

This timely book explores how Buddhist-inflected thought has enriched contemporary American literature. Continuing the work begun in The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature, editors John Whalen-Bridge and Gary Storhoff and the volume’s contributors turn to the most recent developments, revealing how mid-1970s through early twenty-first-century literature has employed Buddhist texts, principles, and genres. Just as Buddhism underwent indigenization when it moved from India to Tibet, to China, and to Japan, it is now undergoing that process in the United States. While some will find literary creativity in this process, others lament a loss of authenticity. The book begins with a look at the American reception of Zen and at the approaches to Dharma developed by African Americans. The work of consciously Buddhist and Buddhist-influenced writers such as Don DeLillo, Gary Snyder, and Jackson Mac Low is analyzed, and a final section of the volume contains interviews and discussions with contemporary Buddhist writers. These include an interview with Gary Snyder; a discussion with Maxine Hong Kingston and Charles Johnson; and discussions of competing American and Asian values at the Beat- and Buddhist-inspired writing program at Naropa University with poets Joanne Kyger, Reed Bye, Keith Abbott, Andrew Schelling, and Elizabeth Robinson.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…every contribution invites us to dig deeper, to go back to the original writings and discover the interplay of Buddhism and American culture for ourselves.” — Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception

“Whalen-Bridge and Storhoff … contend that Buddhism has been transmitted effectively through US literature and become ‘an important cultural dimension of America.’ The editors and their contributors are convincing in advancing this view … Highly recommended.” — CHOICE

“Writing as Enlightenment … will be most useful to … college and university students and teachers who are working to define and shape the emerging field of Buddhist literary criticism.” — Buddhadharma

“Literature has long been a vital part of the Buddhist search for wisdom, a fact that is particularly true of American Buddhism. Writing as Enlightenment is an engaging and wide-ranging study that expands our understanding of Buddhist American literature.” — David Landis Barnhill, translator of Bashō’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Bashō

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Product Details

Meet the Author

John Whalen-Bridge is Associate Professor of English at the National University of Singapore. His books include Norman Mailer’s Later Fictions: Ancient Evenings through Castle in the Forest.

Gary Storhoff is Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Stamford. He is the author of Understanding Charles Johnson. Together they are coeditors of The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature and American Buddhism as a Way of Life, both also published by SUNY Press.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Foreword Jan Willis xi

Introduction John Whalen-Bridge Gary Storhoff 1

Part I Widening the Stream: Literature as Transmission

Chapter 1 The Transmission of Zen as Dual Discourse: Shaku Soen and Okakura Kakuzo Jane Falk 19

Chapter 2 Black American Buddhism: History and Representation Linda Furgerson Selzer 37

Part II The New Lamp: Buddhism and Contemporary Writers

Chapter 3 Some of the Dharma: The Human, the Heavenly, and the "Real Work" in the Writings of Gary Snyder Allan Johnston 71

Chapter 4 "Listen and Relate": Buddhism, Daoism, and Chance in the Poetry and Poetics of Jackson Mac Low Jonathan Stalling 89

Chapter 5 A Deeper Kind of Truth: Buddhist Themes in Don DeLillo's Libra Gary Storhoff 109

Part III Speaking As Enlightenment: Interviews with Buddhist Writers

Chapter 6 "The Present Moment Happening": A Conversation with Gary Snyder about Danger on Peaks Julia Martin 133

Chapter 7 Embodied Mindfulness: Charles Johnson and Maxine Hong Kingston on Buddhism, Race, and Beauty John Whalen-Bridge 141

Chapter 8 Poetry and Practice at Naropa University John Whalen-Bridge 157

List of Contributors 185

Index 189

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