China & Inner Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer: Graham Sanders, University of Toronto
Chair: Richard J. Lynn, University of Alberta
Discussant: Milena Dolezelova-Velingerova, Charles University, Prague
The aim of this panel is to generate discussion regarding hybrid forms of literary discourse in China during the Ming and Qing, when the literary tradition fully matured and sought to differentiate among a bewildering variety of genres. These papers illuminate three different ways in which the lines between forms of discourse were crossed.
"Poetry Matters in the Life and Work of Qu You" (13471433) highlights the role of poetry in the life of an early Ming literatus. The paper concentrates on Qus New Tales Told While Trimming the Lamp, which depicts poetic performance within narrative, producing a piebald discourse that vividly demonstrates poetrys role in negotiating sexual, social and political relationships.
"Playing with the Popular: Theatricality and Authorship in Late Ming Literature" concerns a group of late Ming advocates of vernacular literature who used the discourse of the theater (itself heterogeneous) not only to attack Archaist proponents of classical literature, but also to shape a new relationship between author and reader. This transposed discourse was a powerful means of forming a theoretical discourse about vernacular literature.
"Literary Critical Writings of Huang Zunxian in Japan" (18771882) shows that Huangs literary writings carry a subtext addressed to the Qing government, advocating imitation of Meiji Japans model of preserving and enhancing traditional culture. Huang submerges his politically motivated arguments within a literary discourse that belongs to the very tradition he is defending.
These three meetings of discoursethe piebald, transposed, and submergeddemonstrate the sophistication with which writers handled fluid generic boundaries.
Graham Sanders, University of Toronto
This study is part of an ongoing project to examine the depiction of poetry in the Chinese literary tradition as a means of representing the self and negotiating power in sexual, social, and political relationships. Qu You (13471433) was acutely aware of the multi-faceted power of poetry. In his Remarks on Poetry in Retirement, he observed, "Although poetry may bring about a calamity, it also may relieve suffering." Poetry was the means by which Qu You secured a place of honor in literati society, but it was also the instrument of his demise.
Despite his reputation as a poet, Qu You is now best known as the author of an influential collection of classical Chinese tales called New Tales Told While Trimming the Lamp. In these narratives (love stories widely imitated in Korea and Japan), poetry figures largely as a powerful means by which individuals shape their self-representation and negotiate relationships with others. Far from being passive texts, these poems are portrayed as critical to the outcome of the story, whether good or bad.
Qu You the man is a linchpin for different streams of discourse, including the story of his life, his poetry, the stories in his collection, his critical comments on poetry, and extant evaluations of the man and his work made by his contemporary audience. From the intersection of these different forms of discourse, it is possible to reconstruct a rich picture of the powerful role poetry played in a life lived during early Ming times.
Sophie Volpp, University of California, Davis
This paper argues for a new theatricality in late-Ming literary culture. Authors present themselves as actors upon a public stage in a variety of literary genres, employing the discourse of the theater to describe the new relationship between author and reader.
My paper examines how this theatricality functions in literary theoretical debates, focusing on how proponents of the vernacular use the notion of theatricality. Advocates of the vernacular such as Li Zhi, Xu Wei, and the Yuan brothers satirized the Archaists imitative poetics as theatrical and therefore inauthentic, arguing for a new relationship between author, text, and reader. Tang Xianzus Peony Pavilion further developed these concerns, spoofing the role-playing of the Archaists to argue that it is the untutored who have the most genuine relation to literary texts, one that is somatic and unmediated rather than theatrical in the sense of inauthentic. These authors criticized the role-playing of the Archaists as theatrical, in order to create a theoretical basis for their promotion of the vernacular. Yet their relation with their readers was profoundly self-dramatizing, as an investigation of their letters, essays, poems, and plays will show. In these almost paradoxically opposed ways, the late-Ming fascination with the theatricality of authors and readers profoundly affected the theatrical discourse on the vernacular.
Richard J. Lynn, University of Alberta
The great poet, historian, diplomat and reformer-statesman, Huang Zunxians (18481905) poetry and critical prose writings connected with his stay in Japan (187782) are, on the surface, conventional literary and literary critical works (prefaces, colophons, critiques)all of which can be understood and appreciated in terms of late nineteenth-century classical Chinese letters. However, they also have a rhetorical force directed toward specific political ends, i.e. convincing the Qing government that Meiji Japan was the correct model for Chinese modernization: gradual reform based on the acquisition of modern Western technology and institutions balanced with the preservation and enhancement of traditional values and sensibilities (siwen, or "This Culture of Ours"). Huang believed that Japan was succeeding at this approach to modernization, and his writings about Japan, whatever their literary bent, had this important subtext running through all of them: "We and the Japanese share a common high culture and tradition of values and sensibilities, which they express in their moral behavior, developing political institutions, and literary and other arts (siwen/shibun). They are preserving and even enhancing this culture as they modernize and join the other nations of the worldwe Chinese should do the same." The paper will consist of translated excerpts from Huangs writings, together with analysis and commentaryas well as a brief account of the circle of bunjin friends and acquaintances in which Huang moved during his time in Japan as Counselor to the Imperial Chinese Legation.