We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Writing as Enlightenment

Buddhist American Literature into the Twenty-first Century

John Whalen-Bridge, Gary Storhoff, Jan Willis

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: State University of New York Press

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

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.8 MB)

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

pdf iconDownload PDF (93.6 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (69.9 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.0 KB)
pp. ix

Reprinted with permission from the University of Massachusetts Press: pp. 107–26 from the introduction to Chapter 3, “The Emergence of Black Dharma and Oxherding Tale, in Charles Johnson in Context by Linda Fergerson Selzer. Copyright 2009 by University of Massachusetts Press and published by the University of Massachusetts Press. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (81.0 KB)
pp. xi-xiii

In the eighth century AD, an Indian Buddhist poet and philosopher named Shantideva penned, in verse, a treatise on compassion that immediately became—and has remained—a classic work of Buddhist literature. Entitled The Way of the Bodhisattva, the poem eloquently describes how the thought of enlightenment ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (183.3 KB)
pp. 1-16

In his recently published North American Buddhists in Social Context (2008), Paul David Numrich wonders if scholarly research on American Buddhism really constitutes a “field of study.” Although the interest in Buddhism in North America is, as Thomas A. Tweed asserts, much greater currently than in the past (2000, xv),1 ...

Part I: Widening the Stream: Literature as Transmission

read more

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

pdf iconDownload PDF (215.7 KB)
pp. 19-36

The seemingly widespread awareness of Zen Buddhism in American culture today is evident from the use of Zen as a catchword in everything from beauty advertisements to self-help manuals. A recent edition of Books in Print lists approximately 450 titles under the subject of Zen, although many of these books deal ...

read more

Chapter 2: Black American Buddhism: History and Representation

pdf iconDownload PDF (382.5 KB)
pp. 37-68

In one compelling scene in the racially controversial film Crash (2004), a successful black television producer and his beautiful wife—Cameron and Christine Thayer (played by Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton)—are pulled over by a racist cop and his reluctant young partner. ...

Part II: The New Lamp: Buddhism and Contemporary Writers

read more

Chapter 3: Some of the Dharma: The Human, the Heavenly, and the “Real Work” in the Writings of Gary Snyder

pdf iconDownload PDF (227.2 KB)
pp. 71-88

Since the 1950s, Gary Snyder has offered one of the clearest expressions of Buddhist sensibility in American literature. A seminal figure in the “broad movement” toward Buddhism that “took off in the 1960s” (Seager 9), Snyder helped achieve a transfer of Buddhist values to the West by linking Buddhism to what he calls ...

read more

Chapter 4: “Listen and Relate”: Buddhism, Daoism, and Chance in the Poetry and Poetics of Jackson Mac Low

pdf iconDownload PDF (298.0 KB)
pp. 89-108

“Poetry expresses the emotional truth of the self. A craft honed by especially sensitive individuals, it puts metaphor and image in the service of song. Or at least that’s the story we’ve inherited from Romanticism, handed down for over 200 years in a caricatured and mummified ethos ...

read more

Chapter 5: A Deeper Kind of Truth: Buddhist Themes in Don DeLillo’s Libra

pdf iconDownload PDF (259.5 KB)
pp. 109-130

Raised as a Catholic by Italian immigrant parents, Don DeLillo acknowledges that he is a “spiritual person,” one whose writing “brings [him] closer to spiritual feelings than anything else. Writing is the final enlightenment” (Moss 158). DeLillo’s use of the word “enlightenment” is suggestive of an Asian philosophical lens, ...

Part III: Speaking as Enlightenment: Interviews with Buddhist Writers

read more

Chapter 6: “The Present Moment Happening”: A Conversation with Gary Snyder about Danger on Peaks

pdf iconDownload PDF (139.1 KB)
pp. 133-140

Julia Martin (JM): In Danger on Peaks there is so much awareness of suffering and destruction at many levels, yet the collection also is deeply concerned with healing. So reading the poems brings to mind for me the great question of how to work with integrity as a writer in the late modern world. ...

read more

Chapter 7: Embodied Mindfulness: Charles Johnson and Maxine Hong Kingston on Buddhism, Race, and Beauty

pdf iconDownload PDF (197.7 KB)
pp. 141-156

This interview was conducted on May 29, 2004 at the American Literature Association (ALA) Conference in San Francisco. Charles Johnson and Maxine Hong Kingston each gave readings at the ALA that year and generously agreed to meet with me for the interview. Also in attendance were fellow members of the Charles Johnson Society: ...

read more

Chapter 8: Poetry and Practice at Naropa University

pdf iconDownload PDF (306.8 KB)
pp. 157-184

Poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction have been essential vehicles in the transmission of Buddhism from Asia to the United States, rivaling even canonical texts in influence. From the mid-1970s onward, the institutional center for American literary Buddhism has been Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (101.8 KB)
pp. 185-188


pdf iconDownload PDF (135.5 KB)
pp. 189-193

E-ISBN-13: 9781438439211
E-ISBN-10: 1438439210
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438439198
Print-ISBN-10: 1438439199

Page Count: 207
Publication Year: 2011