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Title:A territory of their own: poetic identity and the construction of literary communities in twelfth-century China
Author(s):E, Li
Director of Research:Cai, Zong-qi
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Cai, Zong-qi
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Chow, Kai-Wing; Huntington, Rania; Xu, Gary Gang
Department / Program:E. Asian Languages & Cultures
Discipline:E Asian Languages & Cultures
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Song Dynasty poetry
Yang Wanli
literary community
Abstract:This dissertation examines the conception and practice of poetry in twelfth-century China. It argues that the poets, facing an identity crisis caused by social, political, and institutional changes of the time, engaged in the reconstruction of a collective discourse on what being a poet meant and how poetry should be written. The issue of the poets' marginalization during the twelfth century is often mixed with the sense of displacement in their personal pursuit of an official career, and is displayed in their self-construction of their identity as a poet through space—from as small as a meditation room and a boat to a much larger space of "mountains and forests" and "rivers and lakes." What emerged from this process was an idealized poetry written by specialized poets who functioned outside of the urban centers of political power and in the redefined space of "mountains and forests" or "rivers and lakes." The identity construction conducted by the poets in this redefined space, I argue in the dissertation, represents the poets' response to the sense of confined geographical and psychological space in their real life. Three poets and their poems, poetic criticism, and daily practices are discussed in the main body of the dissertation. Among them, Yang Wanli (1127-1206) was the senior poet and leader of the poets' community, known for his refreshing poetic style, the "Chengzhai Style." I associate one central characteristic of "Chengzhai style"—taking nature as its writing subject—first with Yang's requirement of "the eyes of the poet," and then with the space of "mountains and forests" from the perspective of Yang as a lower rank official. "Mountains and forests," in Yang’s poems, go beyond the traditional implication of reclusive life and appear as the poet’s actual living environment. In the chapter on Jiang Kui (1155-1221), a younger generation poet known primarily for his song lyrics, I focus on his poetic criticism and argue that his own identity as a poet is constructed through his traveling experiences among the "rivers and lakes." I further argue that "rivers and lakes" in Jiang’s poems are not only representations of concrete images Jiang encountered in the real world, but also a metaphorical term referring to the realm of being away from the traditional domain. The third poet I discuss, Lin Xian (fl. 1180), a lesser known poet in literary history, was taken as a representative of the poet who was in poverty and constrained condition. Lin's construction of his poetic identity was completed and widely accepted by his contemporaries through the allegorical space of his meditation room, the "Snow Nest," which carries the Buddhism connotation and represents a continuation and further development of the “Snow Hall” image of the Northern Song poet Su Shi.
Issue Date:2016-07-12
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Li E
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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