Configurations of Comparative Poetics

Configurations of Comparative Poetics: Three Perspectives on Western and Chinese Literary Criticism

Copyright Date: 2002
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  • Book Info
    Configurations of Comparative Poetics
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive comparative study of Western and Chinese poetics begins with broad examinations of the two traditions over more than two and a half millennia. From these parallel surveys, a series of important theoretical questions arises: How do Western and Chinese critics conceptualize the nature, origin, and function of literature? What are the fundamental differences, if any, in their ways of thinking about literature? Can we account for these differences by examining Western truth-based and Chinese process-based cosmological paradigms? What are the major distinctive concepts of literature developed within Western and Chinese poetics? How have these concepts impacted the development of the two traditions at various times? After considering a wide range of major critical texts, Configurations of Comparative Poetics presents bold and cogent answers to these questions while shedding light on the distinctive orientations of Western and Chinese poetics. The second half of the book features four comparative case studies: Plato and Confucius on poetry; Wordsworth and Liu Xie on the creative process; the twentieth-century "Imagists" and their earlier Chinese counterparts on the relationship of the Chinese written character to poetics; and Derrida and the Madhyamika Buddhists on language and onto-theology. The author not only identifies an array of critical concerns shared by Western and Chinese critics, but also differentiates the conceptual models used by each and traces them to cosmological paradigms.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6196-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Major Chinese Dynasties
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book is a comprehensive comparative study of Western and Chinese poetics, two of the world’s major traditions of literary thought that have existed well over two thousand years. The greatest challenge I face in this project is to achieve an optimal balance of scope and depth. The scope must be broad enough to allow me to review the historical development of these long traditions and to formulate my general views about their overriding concerns, their distinctive orientations, and their culture-specific systematics. To gain such a panoramic view, I begin with broad parallel surveys. Promising and indispensable though they are,...

  6. PART ONE Macrocosmic Structures of Western and Chinese Poetics
    • CHAPTER 1 The Orientation of Western Poetics Conceptualizing Literature as Truth, Untruth, or Antitruth
      (pp. 9-32)

      To examine the orientation of western poetics, a good place to begin is the grand scheme drawn up by M. H. Abrams to delineate the development of Western critical traditions. In his classic book,The Mirror and the Lamp,Abrams conceives of four coordinates of criticism (universe, artist, work, and audience) and arranges them in a triangular diagram (see figure 1), with “work” in the center.

      This analytical scheme, Abrams believes, is applicable to all critical theories because “a critic tends to derive from one of these terms his principal categories for defining, classifying, and analyzing a work of art,...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Orientation of Chinese Poetics Conceptualizing Literature as a Harmonizing Process
      (pp. 33-70)

      In examining the orientation of chinese poetics, I shall begin with a critique of James J. Y. Liu’s adaptation of Abram’s analytical diagram to reconstruct the system of Chinese poetics. In his influential bookChinese Theories of Literature,Liu conceives of five major Chinese theories of literature on the basis of Abrams’ diagram: (1) metaphysical theories, (2) deterministic and expressive theories, (3) technical theories, (4) aesthetic theories, and (5) pragmatic theories.¹ These theories are reconstructed on essentially the same principles used by Abrams to distinguish mimetic, expressive, formal, and pragmatic theories. In so adapting Abrams’ analytical diagram, Liu aims to...

    • CHAPTER 3 Early Chinese Worldviews and Concepts of Literature
      (pp. 71-100)

      Like their western counterparts in chapter 1, the Chinese concepts of literature discussed in chapter 2 are, in Abrams’ words, expressive of “explicit or implicit ‘worldviews’” prevalent at different historical periods. Not only do they bear the imprints of thinking about literature through particular worldviews, they often constitute part of the exposition of the worldviews in question. For instance, as I demonstrate below, many statements about literature in theBook of Documents,theZuo Commentary,andSpeeches of the Statesoccur in the course of discussing certain worldviews. My study of Chinese concepts of literature would be woefully incomplete without...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Systematics of Western and Chinese Poetics Common Denominators, Differentiae, and Cosmological Paradigms
      (pp. 101-110)

      On the basis of my findings in the first three chapters, I will now reflect on the systematics of Western and Chinese poetics. The systematics of a critical tradition may be construed as a broad set of inherent relationships among the major literary concepts and theories developed in that tradition. It is constituted by one or more common denominators that unify diverse literary concepts and theories into a meaningful whole and differentiae that set particular concepts and theories apart from one other. Both common denominators and differentiae are grounded in cosmological paradigms specific to a given cultural tradition. By comparing...

  7. PART TWO Microcosmic Textures of Western and Chinese Poetics
    • CHAPTER 5 Poetics of Harmony Plato and Confucius on Poetry
      (pp. 113-141)

      Plato (CA. 427–CA. 347 B.C.) and confucius (CA. 551–479 B.C.) lived only about half a century apart, but in two culturally unrelated worlds. The influence of these two thinkers on mankind can be measured only on the grandest scale of time and space. For about two and a half millennia, Plato’s and Confucius’ thoughts have shaped all the major aspects of life in the West and East Asia, respectively. To compare Platonic and Confucian thought is an expedition back to the fountainheads of Western and East Asian cultures. By comparing Plato’s and Confucius’ thoughts, we can observe similarities...

    • CHAPTER 6 Poetics of Imagination Wordsworth and Liu Xie on Literary Creation
      (pp. 142-170)

      Wordsworth is probably the first western critic who consciously aims to relocate the locus of criticism to the author. He seeks to place the artist at the center of criticism mainly because he accords paramount importance to the creative process, an issue largely ignored in classical and neoclassical criticism. In his critical writings and poems, he assiduously expounds the significance of the creative process in various terms—psychological, aesthetic, epistemological, philosophical, and theological—within the all-embracing notion of imagination.¹ His pioneering view of the creative process helps earn him a preeminent place in Western criticism.

      In establishing the artist’s inner...

    • CHAPTER 7 Poetics of Dynamic Force Fenollosa, Pound, and Chinese Critics on the Chinese Written Character
      (pp. 171-202)

      In comparative studies of western and chinese poetics, perhaps no work has attracted more enthusiastic acclaim and more unsympathetic criticism than the essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry,” written by Ernest Fenollosa and edited for publication by Ezra Pound.¹ Andrew Welsh calls the essay “one of the high points of modern poetics” and devotes a long chapter to Fenollosa and Pound’s theory of the ideogram in his book,Roots of the Lyric.² Welsh’s remark seems to sum up all the laudatory comments on the essay in Western literary circles. On the contrary, James J. Y. Liu...

    • CHAPTER 8 Poetics of Deconstruction Derrida and Mādhyamika Buddhists on Language and Ontotheologies
      (pp. 203-238)

      In the eye of jacques derrida, fenollosa and pound’s poetics of dynamic force represents the first major challenge to the entrenched tradition of Western poetics. “[Pound’s] irreducibly graphic poetics,” writes Derrida, “was with that of Mallarmé, the first break in the most entrenched Western tradition. The fascination that the Chinese ideogram exercised on Pound’s writing may thus be given all its historical significance.”¹ In foregrounding Pound’s fascination with the Chinese written character, Derrida intends not merely to show the genesis of Pound’s modernist poetics. He also attempts to reappropriate the Chinese written character as the other, against which he can...

  8. Epilogue: Reflections: Intracultural, Cross-cultural, and Transcultural Perspectives on Western and Chinese Literary Criticism
    (pp. 239-256)

    In this closing chapter, i shall attempt to explain the intracultural, cross-cultural, and transcultural perspectives introduced in this book. These three perspectives are intended to address specific deficiencies in various comparative methods and to counter the baneful influence of Orientalist and Occidentalist discourses.¹ Though devised expressly for this project, they may have some theoretical relevance and even practical applicability to similar projects in West-China comparative studies. For this reason, I venture to share my reflections on the raison d’être of the three perspectives and invite the reader to assess his or her potential usefulness for battling various cultural and racial...

  9. Abbreviations
    (pp. 257-258)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 259-316)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 317-346)
  12. Index
    (pp. 347-360)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 361-364)