New York Conf

THE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIENT IN THE POETRY OF GARY SNYDER

A Research Submitted to:

International Conference on Social Science, Literature and Education

New York

(March, 2016)


Synopsis

Karl Marx once said:

"They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented".

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

This statement is said about the Orient and more specifically about the third world and the Islamic countries. The statement means that if the Orient could represent itself, it would, since it cannot, then the orientalists' representation does the job. In this statement, Karl Marx stresses the idea that the Orient was not orientalized as it seems to be oriental, but because it could be made oriental. Karl Marx's statement is used by Edward Said in his book Orientalism which was first published in 1978.

When I first read Edward Said's book of Orientalism, I got fascinated with his brilliant critique and claims concerning the Western conceptions of the Orient. As a researcher first and an Arab student of English literature second, I felt it's my duty to defend my own culture and religion against the fake and unfair orientalists' representations of Islam and the third world. However, an examination of an orientalist's representation of Islamic countries would unwillingly be unjust, defensive, and only a reflection of my own prejudice. I would be no different from a westerner who is so proud of his or her values and norms and tries to impose them on the representation. So I chose another Orient that is not my own but at the same time governed by the same claims and discourse of analysis. This Orient is the Far East orChinaandJapan, the Orient for the American orientalists especially in the time of the Beat Generation on the head of them the American poet Gary Snyder.


In this study I deal with the oriental discourse in Snyder's poetry by examining the applicability of Said's critique of Orientalism on Snyder's representation. The main concern is to show how Gary Snyder as an orientalist represents the Orient – mainlyChinaandJapan– in his poetry to occidental culture. In the study I analyzed Snyder's translation of Chinese and Japanese poetry, his representation of Chinese painting and Japanese drama, and his account for oriental religion or Zen Buddhism. Consequently, I divided this study into four chapters followed by a conclusion.

A consideration of recent critical arguments of Orientalism, in the first chapter, has revealed Edward Said's critique as a brilliant critical approach on occidental representations of the Orient. Whether this Orient alludes to the Middle East or theFar East, Said's discourse of analysis is worldly applied on all culturally different representations. Regardless to the deconstructive arguments about the involvement of Orientalism with colonialism, hegemony, and Eurocentrism; Said's Orientalism is present whenever an orientalist's work is under discussion.

However, throughout the thesis, I hoped to prove that it would be unfair to attach Said's critique with Snyder's representation ofChinaandJapan. The analysis of Snyder's selected poems hopefully draws a defining line between Said's Orientalism and Snyder's representation of the Orient. This has been made clear through an intensive analysis of Snyder's translations of Chinese and Japanese poems, and his own writings.

The study of Han Shan's translated Chinese poems in the second chapter has revealed Snyder's success in representing the aspects of Chinese life which are introduced in Han Shan's poems. In many ways, the translation of Cold Mountain Poems assures Snyder's success as an orientalist in his handling of the differences of language and culture.

Generally speaking, the Chinese aspects which are discussed and analyzed in the collection represent Snyder's interpretation of so many conceptions in ancientChina. Maybe the representation of Han Shan's life andColdMountainis too random and partial, as a concept, to modify asChinaor Chinese culture. Still, in every sense of the words, Han Shan's lines represent an integral part of the big picture taken aboutChinain the West. After all, Han Shan's poems are ones of the most admirable texts ever translated of Chinese culture. And Snyder here plays the role of the interpreter or the intermediary between the too different cultures. As objective as any honest translator could be, the American orientalist Gary Snyder successfully renders Han Shan's Cold Mountain Poems to his audience. Most likely, this success in translating Han Shan's Chinese poems encouraged him to translate the eighteen Japanese poems of Miyazawa Kenji.

Also, the study of the translation of the eighteen Japanese poems of Miyazawa Kenji reveals Snyder's honesty as a translator and an orientalist. In spite of the cultural and semantic difficulties, Snyder's translation indicates his success in representing Japanese culture to the Occident.

The account for the eighteen translated poems is not of a mere interpretation of one country or one culture, but of a perspective of one world where all humans share their life together. The different considerations of ecology, science, modernism and multiculturalism that Miyazawa Kenji takes care of, help to represent this global perspective. At the same time, they make his poems become at many levels difficult to understand or even to interpret by Gary Snyder. Kenji's poetry is always difficult to read even for Japanese readers due to his excessive use of Buddhist and scientific terms. For that there is a "careful attention that Snyder pays to each word and its nuances and associations" (Yamazato, 2004: 2).

The difficulty of translating different cultural text is also always accompanied with the translator's huge responsibility of representation. Indeed, Gary Snyder's honesty as a translator plays the most crucial part in the process of representation. Snyder is the one to blame if Western or any other readers took the wrong conception about one of the aspects of the Chinese or Japanese life introduced in his translation. But this is not to happen as he entirely succeeds as an orientalist in representing an honest picture of Han Shan's and Miyazawa Kenji's poems, at least as far as anyone else can go.

The study of Snyder's own writings in the third chapter also reveals the same attachment with the Orient. The consideration of Snyder's Mountains and Rivers Without End shows his appreciation of two forms of oriental art. Both Chinese landscape paintings and Japanese No drama are in the essence of his Mountains and Rivers Without End. The analysis of the thirty-nine sections of the long poem evidently reveals Snyder's adoption of oriental paintings and drama in the genesis, making and structure of his long poem.

As an embodiment of the Chinese landscape paintings, the long poem with its thirty-nine sections can be read as one section at the time or as one complete poem. Such structure is adopted as Mountains and Rivers Without End as a whole can be seen as one Chinese horizontal landscape scroll. Just as the landscape consists of parts that can be fully grasped separately and at the same time as one unit whole, the sections of the poem can be understood as separate units and at the same time as one long poem. It is entirely true to say that the long poem, right from its beginning till its end, is made in the form of an ongoing landscape scroll.

As far as the Chinese landscape scroll affects the genesis and making of Mountains and Rivers Without End so does the Japanese No drama concerning the composition of the long poem. The same as the Japanese No play, Mountains and Rivers Without End has the same structure of the jo-ha-kyu, the essential rule of composition in the No drama. This dramatic structure of No is evidently used in Snyder's long poem as the poet himself admits that "The structure of Noh is usually tri-partite. It is called 'jo ha kyu'- - calm opening ….. long & detailed exposition - - swift conclusion. Sometimes there are 4 parts, jo ha ha kyu. Double detailed exposition. That's a guide to the four parts of Mts & Rivers." (E-mail, November 12, 2010).

Both the Chinese landscape scroll and the Japanese No play make Mountains and Rivers Without End goes on and on in the mind of its readers and viewers. Even after the end of the long poem it is still without end. This masterpiece with its embodiment of two forms of oriental art proves Snyder's success in making a new kind of music-dance poetry. It also credits him as an orientalist by opening limitless doors for the upcoming multi-cultural poems.

In this study I also go far to prove how the embracement of Buddhist thinking affects Snyder's poetry. An analysis of the Buddhist themes in Snyder's translations and his long poem has revealed his adoption of Buddhist teachings and practices. This kind of analysis deeply connects Gary Snyder with the Orient in his embracement of the oriental religion of Buddhism in his poetry.

It is even completely true to assume that Buddhism is the main reason behind Snyder's interest inChinaandJapanin the first place. His translation of Han Shan's and Miyazawa Kenji's poems is a consequence of his growing interest in Zen Buddhism. Even his adaptation of the two forms of oriental art, the Chinese landscape scroll and the Japanese No drama in Mountains and Rivers Without End, is simply because they both are Buddhist art. Consequently, Snyder's translation of Han Shan's Cold Mountain Poems, the eighteen poems of Miyazawa Kenji, and his own work Mountains and Rivers Without End are his contribution to the transmission of the ancient oriental wisdom of Buddhism to the Occident.

From the beginning of the long poem Snyder pays great attention to explaining some of the most important teachings of Buddhism like emptiness to his readers. Emptiness is the way in to awareness and enlightenment. It is the one important Buddhist concept for the recognition of the impermanence of life. But most importantly, the awareness of emptiness is the way for compassion. For Snyder and Buddhism it is all about compassion. Only with compassion that man can live in satisfaction and happiness. Compassion is the only way for living in peace and harmony with oneself and with other beings. It is even the only way to bring East and West together to live as "Comrade: sharing the same tent or sky" in spite of all the differences.

On a most profound and general scale, the four chapters credit Snyder's success in representing oriental culture. His translation of oriental poems, his adaptation of the two forms of oriental art and his embracement of oriental religion are a window to an anti-Orientalism critique. His occidental representation defies Bhabha, Foucault, Gramsci, Lefevere, Kern and most importantly Edward Said. In this respect, Gary Snyder deserves respect and appreciation as an orientalist since he "mastered the languages, civilizations, and philosophies of the far East with an intimacy few Americans have ever achieved" (Perkins, 1987: 584). His success as an orientalist makes him take the lead of all the upcoming representations of cultural difference.


Finally, I hope that I succeeded to prove that not all occidental representations of the Orient are categorized under Edward Said's terms. With all due respect to Said's appreciated claims in the field study of Orientalism, Gary Snyder's poetic translations and his own poems are free from Said's discourse of analysis. Gary Snyder in this respect embodies an orientalist's request not to orientalize, but simply to seek knowledge of another and different culture.

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