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Organizer: Colin Hawes, University of British Columbia
Chair: Xiaoshan Yang, University of Notre Dame
Discussant: Alice W. Cheang, University of Notre Dame
No writer escapes his or her antecedents. In the Chinese tradition, past literary practices and practitioners are understood to loom particularly large. Overwhelmed by their cultural inheritance, runs the common assumption, classical Chinese authors, far from straining for originality, eagerly sought to "transmit" the received wisdom of their forebears and "return to the ancients."
What if this identification with the pastfor some authors, or in certain periods, at leastis regarded as a mainly superficial gesture which masks real intentions to clear creative space by subverting powerful predecessors? To what extent can resistance to the pressure of established models, or the anxieties of influence endured by late-born "talents" striving to prove themselves, be gauged?
This panel addresses the problem through specific cases of imitation or appropriation in classical Chinese poetics. Minru Li details Tang and Song poetic appropriations from Tao Yuanming (c.365427); Mark Francis and Colin Hawes demonstrate how Li He (791817) and Ouyang Mu (10071072), respectively, sought to outdo the style of a strong poet forebear; and Lydia Francis discusses how Ji Yun (17241805) explores the nature of originality itself in a self-referential text that strives to outdo its literary predecessors and ultimately to undo itself
The panel also assesses on the theoretical level the relevance in the Chinese context of such Western perspectives as Harold Blooms concept of the "anxiety of influence," and whether the Chinese tradition offers a viable alternative to Freudian-inspired terms.
The Humble Challenger: "Peach Blossom Spring" Poets in the Tang and Song Dynasties
Minru Li, University of Auckland
Since Tao Yuanming (c. 365427) composed the preface and poem "Peach Blossom Spring," a good number of "belated" poets have followed him and written on the same topic. Unlike the literary figures mentioned in Harold Blooms work (including Oscar Wilde, Goethe, Nietzsche, Emerson, Blake and Lawrence) who denied any poetical influence of their predecessors in order to claim their own creativity and originality, these Chinese poets readily admitted Taos influence, voiced high respect for him, and appropriated his words and ideas without display of the anxieties of indebtedness.
This paper examines the phenomenon in light of Chinese concepts of originality and creativity, and explores the relationship between the precursor, Tao Yuanming, and four belated and acclaimed poets, Wang Wei (701761) and Han Yu (768824) of the Tang Dynasty, and Su Shi (10371101) and Wang Anshi (10211086) of the Song Dynasty. The paper attempts to reveal that, despite their humble attitude, the four poets, consciously or unwittingly, were challengers of Taos legacy and, eventually, produced their own highly individualized works. Moreover, the paper will treat the framing concept of the anxiety of influence from a Chinese perspective by employing terms and concepts from traditional Chinese poetics, and comparing them with Blooms terms of six revisionary ratios that are central to the Western tradition.
Daemonizing Li Bo: Li Hes Counter-Sublime
Mark Francis, University of Auckland
Harold Bloom, in his Anxiety of Influence, suggests a method of intertextual study which investigates the works of "late" poets by interpreting their innovationsor strangenessesas strategies aimed at overcoming the enervating "power" of influential poet-predecessors. Bloom describes one such strategy, "Daemonization, or the Counter-Sublime," which has striking relevance to the case of the Mid-Tang poet Li He, particularly if we set the works of Li He (the reputed "Demonic Genius" of Chinese poetry) against those of the more illustrious, and canonical, Li Bo (the "Banished Immortal," or "Divinity of Poetry") who first established a literary reputation for piling "strangeness upon strangeness."
With Blooms concept as a framework, this paper considers how Li Hes poems may be read as an attempt "to generalize away the uniqueness of the earlier work" and thereby forge for their author a more distinctive poetic identity. It first identifies the style and specific poems of Li Bo most responsible for that poets reputation for literary marvelousness (qi), then, in close readings, sets against the results "strange" (guai) poems by Li He which seem to stand as distortions or expansions of the earlier poets fantastic vision. In seeking further justification to relate them, the analysis focuses on the alleged "transcendent" and "supra-human" elements of the two poets respective oeuvres, suggesting how their versions of a Chinese "fantastic" might be compared or contrasted with Romantic notions of the sublime.
Rhyme, Reason, and Revival: Ouyang Xius Witty Appropriation of Han Yu
Colin Hawes, University of British Columbia
In the imaginative graveyard of the early Song, decked out with its wreaths of imitation late-Tang regulated verse, Han Yu (768824) would have made a most unwelcome ghost. Yet by the 1040s, ancient-style poems in the rough, strange Han Yu vein were an essential part of every poets repertoire. It is a commonplace that Ouyang Xiu (10071072) was largely responsible for the Han Yu revival: Ronald Egan and others have clearly illustrated the degree to which Han influenced Ouyangs mastery of prose style. However, little work has been done on the equally close poetic affinity between these two writers.
This paper redresses the balance, revealing Ouyang Mus appropriation and subtle alteration of Han Yus poetry. Focusing on ancient-style verse, I begin by noting the aspects of Hans poetry that Ouyang singles out for praisenotably clever rhyming, vivid daily-life vignettes, and "joking and teasing." I provide several examples where Ouyang has clearly borrowed such stylistic idiosyncrasies from Han. I demonstrate that in each case Ouyang alters his modelreplacing Hans grotesque hyperbole and shocking disorder with gentle caricature and cunningly reasoned wit. The resulting poems are delightfully "original," and utterly "Song" in style.
My conclusion deals with two questions arising from Ouyangs compositional method. Isnt witty transformation an effective means to escape the shadow of our strong predecessors? And cannot revival of dead writers, far from evoking anxiety, in fact revive the sagging inspiration of our own age?
The Anxiety of Influence and the Problem of Zhi: Fantastic Lyricism in Yueweicaotang biji
Sing-chen Lydia Francis, University of Auckland
In the preface to his Yueweicaotang biji, Ji Yun (17241805) dissociates his writing from both creation (zuo) and transmission (shu). This is a remarkable proclamation, in light of the traditional Confucian literary discourse of transmission as authoring. The explicit analogy of author as father and transmitter as son in classical Chinese lends itself to comparison with Harold Blooms notion of the "anxiety of influence," which is structured upon the Freudian metaphor of the Oedipal complex. However, in a culture where the principle of filiality reigned supreme, the path to ones own artistic identity was perhaps best found in the realm of literary fantasy.
Taking "Wang Juzhuang yan" as a case study, this paper seeks to demonstrate how Ji Yun, as a "belated" writer, reclaims originality by appropriating and problematizing literary forefathers through rigorous exploration of fantastic indeterminacy. Cast in the framework of a ghost story telling contest, the story strives not only to outdo its literary predecessors, but also to outdohence ultimately undoitself, The highly self-referential text exposes the multiplicity and incongruity of the authorial intent (zhi), which is traditionally taken to be the locus of meaning. On the other hand, by negating both textual objectivity and authorial subjectivity as the final arbiter of meaning, Ji Yuns ghostly tale celebrates illusion itself as an artistic subject. As the anxiety for an ultimate "author or "authority" dissolves, the lack of a singular origin of meaning becomes no longer chaotic or nihilist, but rather, fantastic, lyrical, and "original."