Killing the Buddha: Henry Miller's long journey to Satori

Cowe, Jennifer (2016) Killing the Buddha: Henry Miller's long journey to Satori. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The aim of this thesis to is explore the relationship between Henry Miller, Zen Buddhism and how this may offer new ways of reading Miller. By exploring the life-long interest of Miller in Eastern Philosophy I hope to show that far from being the misogynistic, sexual miscreant of legend, he was in fact a deeply spiritual man who wished his work to inspire and motivate readers rather than be a form of titillation. My attempt here is not to rehabilitate Miller’s reputation in regards to race, religion or gender, but rather to examine his work through a more spiritual lens.
In the process I will attempt to use a more complete selection of Miller’s works than is commonly utilized by critics, although particular attention will be given to Tropic of Cancer, I will show how later, more spiritual works illuminate Miller’s Zen Buddhist beliefs. By using novels, essays, letters and pamphlets I hope to provide a wide-ranging examination of Miller’s oeuvre both chronologically and spiritually.
Two key words that will be found to re-occur throughout the thesis are ‘journey’ and ‘progression’. Journey in the sense that Miller saw his own life in Zen Buddhist terms; he existed to evolve and gain awareness though his life experiences through the writing and re-writing them until he could move beyond them. Progression in the sense that movement is crucial to the development of spirituality, the mind and heart must be open to new knowledge and understanding. I will show that Miller came to conceptualise both his life and work through the Zen Buddhist teaching of The Four Noble Truths and Miller’s daily implementation of The Eight Fold Path.
I will start by arguing that it is impossible to understand Miller’s journey without first examining the process by which he came to shape his own life narrative. The Zen peace of Miller’s later years was hard fought and gained at considerable price to both him and those close to him. Miller first had to develop a conceptualisation of creativity before he could be open to meaningful spiritual change. This thesis will examine the lasting influence of both Otto Rank and Henri Bergson on Miller’s idea of what it meant to be a writer, how reality in relation to his life experiences was malleable and how this provided Miller with the foundation on which to explore his spirituality. I will show how Miller’s close relationship to Surrealism caused him to re-think some of his positions in relation to language, style and freedom, yet ultimately why he felt impelled to continue on his journey to Zen Buddhism enlightenment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Henry Miller, Buddhism, rank, Bergson, surrealism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BQ Buddhism
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Gair, Dr. Christopher
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Jennifer Cowe
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7105
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2016 12:26
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2019 15:32

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