Language orders our experience of reality. It establishes a scale of binary opposition dictating where one ends and another begins, clearly defining the relationship between what is and what isn't. This relationship grounds our notion of self and creates the framework through which we interpret and sift through the overwhelming diversity of the human experience. It is through this process of interpretation that meaning is created, that the fragments of experience are assembled to compose just who I am. But according to post-structural literary theory this I is arbitrary. If words are the signs upon which reality is ordered, both describing and simultaneously creating the meaning that defines our experience of being, how do we express that which is beyond language? Where do we distinguish between the experience of reality and the expression of that experience?
[...] And it is within this fluid and all-encompassing landscape that our journey through Gary Snyder's epic, Mountains and Rivers without End, begins. The first poem, “Endless Streams and Mountains,” describes our experience of Streams and Mountains without End. Throughout these lines, our perception shifts. We become both the subject, viewing the painting from a distance, and the object, encompassed within and defined by the painting. Fleeting voices and images collapse the scales of difference upon which language operates. Words lead us in multiple directions creating a fluid center that embraces limitless meanings. [...]
[...] In the first section of this essay, I will introduce Gary Snyder and Mountains and Rivers without End. The second will familiarize us with the two theoretical perspectives we will use to read Mountains and Rivers without End. In the third, we will begin to through the text itself. And it is through this journey that we will observe how language can deconstruct the conventions of language, revealing not only the emptiness of words but also the emptiness of the self and the reality that self expresses. [...]
[...] Actions occur but no ‘I' claims control.[?] The focus upon the line and the experience of the resulting image without the distinction between the subject and the object emphasizes the “immediate perception of things as they in the present moment: To the boulders on the gravel in the flowers At the end of the glacier two ravens Sitting on a boulder carried by the glacier Left on the gravel resting in the flowers At the end of the ice age show me the Time and space weave in and out of constantly shifting landscapes. [...]
[...] In Mountains and Rivers without End, Snyder has engaged us in a play of words; in this play, we have realized the arbitrary nature of meaning and the fluidity of our own perception. Because the perception upon which the world is known is language becomes an expression of reality as the experience of emptiness. We, as readers and as human beings, then possess the power to re-image the world, to question and to explore our own beings through this unceasing process. [...]
[...] Why you got that Well man I just don't feel right Without something on my back” & this character in milkman overalls have to come out here every once in a while, there's a guy blows me here” way out of town[?] Snyder uses distinct and concrete imagery to create these nameless presences. They are expressed through their memories and experiences which, without a title to distinguish them, drift into one another. We then weave these stories within our own narratives to express the diversity of the human experience. [...]
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