Late Zen

Peter B. High j45843a
Fri Sep 10 17:30:49 EDT 1999

> I am still somewhat mystified as to why previous treatments of Zen and film
> have aroused such passion and ire - so much so that the normally generous PB
> High was surprisingly prescriptive regarding what would and would not count
> as an acceptable piece of research on Zen. I think the real issue is not the
> absence or presence of 'academic rigour' or of a specific methodology - it
> is rather the challenge to say something meaningful in language about a
> practice which has such a radical mistrust of language as a mode of
> representation. Perhaps the idea of a (silent) Zen film is, paradoxically,
> easier to realise that a film about Zen or a piece of scholarship about Zen.

Since my name came up in Craig's posting, I thought I should make some sort of 
response. Quite frankly I don't think my original posting contained either passion 
or ire (actually, it was rather dull). Nor did I use the phrase "orientalism," 
largely for the very reason Craig warns us about. Nor was I criticizing the body of 
literature attempting to introduce Zen to Westerners--heck, I thrived on that stuff 
myself at one time! I do think, however, that before embarking  on a project 
attempting to relate Zen to Japanese cinema, we have to acknowledge that in the 
past similar attempts tended to dead end in a slough of platitudes. That in itself 
is all right, I guess, but in terms of film analysis its not very enlightening. I 
think its also significant that, so far, the whole thread on the subject has yet to 
evoke a single actual film reference, let alone an analysis. In fact--and correct 
me if I'm misreading here, Craig--the rest of your above paragraph  seems to 
represent a stepping back from the attempt yourself. :-)

PB High

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