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Long Strange JourneyOn Modern Zen, Zen Art, and Other Predicaments$
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Gregory P. A. Levine

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824858056

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824858056.001.0001

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Zen Influence, Inherence, and Denial

Zen Influence, Inherence, and Denial

Reconsidering Postwar Zen and Art

(p.130) 6 Zen Influence, Inherence, and Denial
Long Strange Journey

Gregory P. A. Levine

University of Hawai'i Press

Centering on the work and reception of the composer John Cage, famous for his “indeteminant” works, Yoshihara Jirō and his “Circle works,” and the filmmaker Ozu Yasujirō’s Tokyo Story, this chapter examines the twining postwar rhetorical patterns of Zen influence, Zen inherence, and Zen denial as they inform interpretation of works of postwar art produced by artists in the West and Japan. Contrary to certain practitioner narratives, at times beguiled by hagiography and inclined towards grand narratives, the chapter suggests a grittier sensibility that reflects the rhetorical tussles that emerged contemporaneously and have since continued. Doing so, it points again to the multifarious nature of Zen in the postwar period, including those forms espoused by the avant-garde and its advocates, as well as the parallax effect of affirmative orientalist reception in the West of Japanese artists—praised when their work looked Zen, otherwise dismissed as derivative of New York School artists.

Keywords:   avant-garde, indeterminacy, John Cage, orientalism, Ozu Yasujirō, Yoshihara Jirō

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