Writing as Enlightenment

Buddhist American Literature into the Twenty-first Century

Edited by John Whalen-Bridge & Gary Storhoff
Foreword by Jan Willis

Subjects: Buddhism
Series: SUNY series in Buddhism and American Culture
Paperback : 9781438439204, 207 pages, August 2011
Hardcover : 9781438439198, 207 pages, August 2011

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Table of contents

Jan Willis
John Whalen-Bridge & Gary Storhoff

PART I. Widening the Stream: Literature as Transmission
1. The Transmission of Zen as Dual Discourse: Shaku Soen and Okakura Kakuzo
Jane Falk

2. Black American Buddhism: History and Representation
Linda Furgerson Selzer

PART II. The New Lamp: Buddhism and Contemporary Writers
3. Some of the Dharma: The Human, the Heavenly, and the “Real Work” in the Writings of Gary Snyder
Allan Johnston

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

5. A Deeper Kind of Truth: Buddhist Themes in Don DeLillo’s Libra
Gary Storhoff

PART III. Speaking as Enlightenment: Interviews with Buddhist Writers
6. “The Present Moment Happening”: A Conversation with Gary Snyder about Danger on Peaks
Julia Martin

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

8. Poetry and Practice at Naropa University
John Whalen-Bridge

List of Contributors

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.

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.


"…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