Wordsworth and the Zen Mind

The Poetry of Self-Emptying

By John G. Rudy

Subjects: Japanese Studies
Paperback : 9780791429044, 268 pages, March 1996
Hardcover : 9780791429037, 268 pages, April 1996

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Table of contents




Introduction:The Purer Mind

Part One:
Wordsworthian Capaciousness and Zen Emptiness

Introduction to Part One

1. Capaciousness as Natural Process

2. Capaciousness as Receptacle

Part Two:
Wordsworth's Endless Way and the Tao of Zen

Introduction to Part Two

3."Stepping Westward" and "The Solitary Reaper"

4. The Alpine Crossing

5. "The Blind Highland Boy"

Part Three:
Zen Moods and the Poetry of Emptiness

Introduction to Part Three

6. Sabi: The Spirit of Solitude and Freedom

7. Wabi: The Spirit of Poverty

8. Aware: The Spirit of Impermanence

9.Yugen: The Spirit of Depth

10.The Lesson of the Conch

Conclusion: Forgetting the Mind




Studies Wordsworth in the context of Zen thought and art.


This book demonstrates that Zen thought and art provide both a generative and a formative context for understanding the spirituality of the English poet William Wordsworth (1770—1850). Combining methods of modern literary scholarship with the philosophical initiatives of the Kyoto School, the text crosses disciplines as well as cultures, offering a nonmonotheistic, nonpantheistic philosophical ground upon which to study what Wordsworth calls the "tranquil soul" and "the one Presence" that underlies "the great whole of life." Anticipating a variety of audiences, the discourse progresses from general, introductory level discussions of Zen philosophy and literature to the more technical philosophical idiom of the Kyoto School, employing intertextual readings of a variety of Wordsworthian and Zen documents to broaden and deepen the East-West dialogue as it has been unfolding since the pioneering work of D. T. Suzuki and Kitaro Nishida.

An important aspect of this study is its twofold purpose: to situate Wordsworth more centrally in the evolving global community of intercultural and interreligious communication and to demonstrate the unique flexibility and universality of Zen as a medium of spiritual growth and aesthetic understanding.

John G. Rudy is Professor of English at Indiana University Kokomo.


This is a refreshingly new comparative effort on Zen and Wordsworth, bringing into play the subtleties of Zen experience and the deep spirituality of Wordsworth." — Kenneth Inada, State University of New York at Buffalo

"What I like most about this book is the way in which it restores the spiritual moments in Wordsworth's poetic experience to their spiritual wholeness, thereby resolving the central issue of mind versus nature as Wordsworth himself resolved it, against the odds of the dualistic modes of critical thinking of his time and our own. The book has eloquently demonstrated how minds from diverse cultural backgrounds such as English romanticism and Zen Buddhism can meet on shared grounds of human perception." — Charles Q. Wu, Reed College