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Planetarism and Eco Humanism in the Buddhist Beat Bards, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder: An interdisciplinary thematic study on their literature, philosophy and Ecological Perspectives

Damodaran, Shajee. K. (2012) Planetarism and Eco Humanism in the Buddhist Beat Bards, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder: An interdisciplinary thematic study on their literature, philosophy and Ecological Perspectives. PhD thesis, Christ university.

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Abstract

The Beat Generation, also known as the Beat movement, were a group of American writers who emerged in 1950s. Among its most influential members were Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, William Burrough, William Carlos Williams and Lawrence Ferlenghetti. What could be loosely described as the underlying philosophy was visionary enlightenment, Zen Buddhism, environmentalism and Amerindian culture. The Beat Generation invented a literary collage movement as a counter-brain wash method for reversing effect of Mass media-Military-Industrial-Communist-Capitalist-CIA-KGB disinformation reality image bank. A common theme that linked them together was a rejection of the prevailing American middle class values, deterioration of the Planet‟s health, the purposelessness of modern society and the need for withdrawal and protest. The Beats have tried to break the restraints imposed on the western man‟s mind by the official ways of thinking. They find the official morality unacceptable and tried to arrive at metaphysical and ethical enlightenment through the methods adopted by the oriental thinkers like Gauthama Buddha, and Zen ascetics. They begin with the problems the western civilization is encountering, like the one of war and ecological degradation and use the concepts of oriental civilizations to find causes and remedies of the miseries people and the planet have been encountering.The mechanistic paradigm underlying the industrial society gives way to the realization that we belong to a living, self-organizing cosmos. General systems theory, emerging from the life sciences, brings fresh evidence to confirm ancient indigenous teachings; the earth is live, mind is pervasive, all beings are our relations. The Beats rediscovered this perennial truth which changed our views about the planet and its life systems. The beats were a product of the second world war and of the cold war. They reject the social, political, religious and artistic value of their time as outmoded and wholly inadequate; and they sought new, viable ones to replace them. They condemned the inhuman, monstrous, mechanized, modern civilization. This dissimilar authors formed nexus of a movement which sets the Beats apart from other writers of the post-war period. Common traits of beat writers- their use of primitivism shamanism, Buddhism, Environmentalism myth and magic, spontaneity, and improvisation, all of which led them to a new idiom of consciousness and to the expansion of the parameters of American literature. The Beats regarded society as suffering from a collective psychosis, a madness whose symptoms manifested themselves in the form of cold war; the threat of atomic annihilation; the consumerism, conformity, and passivity of the mass of people; the blandness, the aridity, and the insipidity of contemporary life; the lack of spiritual values, the erosion of human ideals and goals by self-satisfaction, indifference, compliance, complacency; the unchallenged excesses of the bureaucracy, the military, the police and the intelligence agencies; the technology mania; and the insidious hypnotic powers of the television and other mass media. The role of the media and of the politicians and corporations who control it, is a particular issue in some of their poetry.Ginsberg was known as the Beat generation‟s Walt WhitMan and Gary Snyder as its Thoreau. Fast moving and far-ranging, the Beats short like a comet across the placid cultural skies of the late fifties and early sixties outshining for a time many of the fixed stars and familiar constellations. Then, like a comet, they seemed to blaze away again. However, their exit was only apparent; in fact, they continued to pursue their eccentric orbit in the heavens; they had only become less visible. And comet like too the Beats were an omen, their appearance portending the advent of a time of upheaval and change. Deep Ecology is the philosophy of environmental ethics, the spirituality of Gaia which was an inherent theme in the Beat‟s. In this ecological contexts, Ginsberg writes of endangered primate species and of ravaged landscapes where the poet‟s own planetary consciousness matches with the Deep Ecology philosophy. In this regard, Snyder urges us to realize that we must accept and honour, nurture and care, for ourselves and our world, cease ruinous abuse of the biosphere.Ginsberg‟s environmental concerns and anti nuclear activities were stemmed from his deep Buddhist understanding. These concerns are represented in the poems of his Plutonian ode. Snyder‟s work makes us far more alive and attentive. There is a celebration of the whole grandeur of nature from ants living in decaying wood to mountain ranges off to the far horizon. Snyder‟s world is one of inter connections. Gary Snyder has pursued a radical vision which integrates Zen Buddhism, Amerindian Practices, ecological thinking and wilderness values. His representative poem Turtle Island reflects these perennial wisdoms. The Romantic icon Shakespeare extolled humanism. Since then, humanism has been considered as a great virtue. More recently, however, humanism has provoked criticism from Beat Artists and from various „Green‟ movements that claim the humanist perspective is too anthropocentric that it is guilty of speciesism, that it ignores the beauty of nature. Ecohumanism attempts to address these new concerns. It is a Beat version of humanism. Snyder argues that early western humanists advocated ultimately anthropocentric or human centred universe only. They never considered the value of this planet and the ecosystem in it. Earth is where human live, and damage to the atmosphere, various bodies of water or terrestrial environment have serious implication for human welfare. Snyder‟s approach is pragmatic – Do not soil the nest. The term “Planetarism” has been coined by the Beat Artists. This is a noble view which sees the whole planet and all its beings as a “Big Family”.Beat‟s poetic visions have not been confined to the trivialities of any locality. It is as complex as this cosmos yet as concrete as this earth. Although they are happened to be born in America, their poetic sense and sensibility have been influenced by people of different countries and cultures of different continents. Neither geographic boundaries nor linguistic alienation pose any hindrance in their way while traversing this great terrestrial range. Their philosophy is as wide as this world and as perennial as truth. Their poetry accommodates things as big as this planet and as numerous as all the living and nonliving beings in it. Planetarism and Ecohumanism are the hallmarks of their poetry. The study is an inter-disciplinary approach to their poems. The study transcends the boundaries of poetic sensibility, philosophical discourses, social stigmas, cultural lacunae, spiritual dimensions and ecological perspectives. It is a holistic view of poetry, the poets and the world they lived.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Subjects:Thesis
Thesis > Ph.D > English Studies
Thesis > Ph.D
ID Code:7841
Deposited By:Shaiju M C
Deposited On:18 May 2019 14:29
Last Modified:18 May 2019 14:29

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