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Contributors to this volume explore how Asian influences have been adapted to American desires in literary works and at Buddhist poetics, or how Buddhist practices emerge in literary works. Starting with early aesthetic theories of Ernest Fenollosa, made famous but also distorted by Ezra Pound, the book moves on to the countercultural voices associated with the Beat movement and its friends and heirs such as Ginsberg, Kerouac, Snyder, Giorno, Waldman, and Whalen.
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An interview with Kingston is included. Postwar American writers rebelled in a variety of ways. Books such as Lolita and Catcher in the Rye were the site of censorship battles between librarians and church groups, not just because these books brought up sex as a subject, but also because they presented conventional tastes regarding literature, art, and morality as ridiculously provincial or as phony.
Salinger, Gary Snyder, and Allen Ginsberg, to name some of the most famous Buddhist popularizers of the s, did both. They experimented with a kind of malaise essay writer in which the work took on the qualities of a mind supposed to malaise essay writer freer from delusion than those against which that mind was being defined.
The Glass stories, Snyder's mixing of Malaise essay writer translation and indigenous song, and Ginsberg's charming and elegant yawp from the rooftop were all forms of complaint against mainstream society, which was felt to be crassly materialistic, a society of people too selfish to appreciate the literary celebration of generosity.
In the words of Hettie Jones, the Beats were interested in Buddhism as an "antimaterialist point of view" that was "very attractive to those of us who were disaffected with the organized religion we were brought up with" Mortenson.
Not all of the writing bore the marks of complaint, but, if the First Noble Truth is that everything in life is pervasively unsatisfactory, the writers most interested in Buddhism bore witness, through Buddhist-inflected stories and poems, to the most unsatisfactory dimensions of American life.
To note that Buddhist American literature was rebellious is not very surprising, since this literature was surely born of the same conditions as other well-known works of the period.
If Buddhist references and convention-challenging aesthetic notions were a mark of the literary avant-garde, it is also true that literature itself was the avant-garde of the movement of Buddhism into America: Without this literary amplification, it is doubtful that Buddhism would exist as it does in the United States today, a country of three hundred or so metropolitan areas, each of which has practicing Buddhist groups.
To say that the Buddhism of the early Beats was merely literary is to underestimate rather drastically the significance of American poetry and fiction in the transmission and transformation of Buddhist beliefs, practices, and institutions. Against the "poetry-does-nothing" ethos of Modernist literature and criticism, Buddhist writers in America are anything but quiescent.
Allen Ginsberg has urged audiences, in his comic-yet-incantatory style, to meditate and to quit smoking. Gary Snyder has envisaged problems and specific, workable if ignored by everyone in power save Al Gore solutions to problems such as our over-reliance on fossil fuels.
As Michael David-son has noted, such writers worked with avant-garde poetics and systems of ideas such as Buddhism to develop a sense of community among the alienated. A work of literature provides readers with a shared object so that we may share the most personal of ideas, and so the poems, plays, and fictions have undergirded large identity movements such as the women's movements, ethnic identity movements, and also the struggle of homosexuals to reconstruct themselves as citizens with full rights and full status.
Literary expression itself does not typically lead to direct changes in law, to a reconfiguration of culture away from prejudice, but literature does supplement these struggles in important ways. Such movements often require the invention of a corporate self—an African American or a female or a gay person—who stands for the group, and yet that identity claim can also work hand-in-hand with the stereotyping that activists in such groups presumably wish to subvert.
On the one hand, a significant claim is put forward—for example, black men are seen as dangerous or inferior by a world in which the conscious values or value-laden life-ways of white men prevail; on the other hand, the positive counter-self that is put forward, whether it be the highly productive "race man" or the macho nationalist who forcefully refuses such representations, is just as much of a stick figure as the negative stereotype that is being rejected.
Literature helps out by providing not the assertion of innumerable private differences, but rather a set of shared objects that are composed of representations of the private and personal. To change laws, the agents of a movement must convincingly argue that a typical woman in a professional position makes less money than a man in a similar position; to change minds, the agents need to make people care not about percent-ages but about people.
Buddhism, according to its most conservative interpreters, is a way of life in which one turns away from pleasures perfumes, dancing girls, songs, and so forthand so the cultivation of aesthetic pleasure could be construed as a distraction.
Another foreseeable objection to the idea that literature and Buddhist practice can reinforce each other shifts attention from the effects of litera-ture on readers to the genesis of the work: William Burroughs complained, after sitting through a lengthy meditation retreat, that calmness of mind was of no use to him as a novelist.
Insofar as a writer makes samsara attractive and all aesthetic objects are by definition more attractive than not, she or he is turning the reader away from the real work of freeing the mind from the shackles of desire.
But insofar as the writer is making it possible to understand, compassionately, someone else's private agony that she or he may alter conditions and escape samsarathen the same literary text could be understood to operate in a "Buddhistic" fashion. The chief paradox of "Buddhist Literature" is that it helps provide the conditions, as Benedict Anderson has argued newspapers did for modern nations, for the formation of a Buddhist imagined community, though this particular corporate identity forms itself around the idea that identity itself is a delusion.
There is an aesthetic solution to this paradox: If the work of art affirms identity not in terms of a self-existent soul or a chosen people but rather as an impermanent and fully contingent artifact, the identity that is produced by such songs will at least have relative merit over those self-concepts that do not build into themselves assertions of impermanence.
The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature is divided into three sections: Transmission and Transformation"; "A Pluralistic Poetics: Zen, Vajrayana, and the Avant-garde"; and "Widening the Circle: Buddhism and American Writers of Color. Whether or not the idealized mind-to-mind transmission of awareness can be traced from Buddha's India through China and Japan to zendos in America, it can hardly be said that an Asian body of thought has been adopted with-out adaptation.Britain is the common name for the sovereign state of the United Kingdom, the political entity comprising England, Wales, Scotland (which make up the island of Great Britain) and Northern Ireland.
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John Peter Zenger became a symbol for the freedom of the press in the young American colonies. Seen above is a printing of the trial proceedings. No democracy has existed in the modern world without the existence of a free press.
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This guest post is by bestselling author and writing authority Elizabeth Sims. She’s the author of seven popular novels in two series, including The Rita Farmer Mysteries and The Lillian Byrd Crime series. She’s also the author of the excellent resource for writers, You’ve Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams, published by Writer’s Digest Books.