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The Elusiveness of Commonality: Late Twentieth-Century Sinology and the Search for a Shared Lyric Language

The Elusiveness of Commonality: Late Twentieth-Century Sinology and the Search for a Shared Lyric... As the study of what we now call “premodern” China gained traction among students in the postwar United States, the question of how it should be approached emerged as a divisive issue among interested scholars, perhaps nowhere as much as it did among those with a particular interest in Chinese poetry. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the stakes seemed high as scholars confronted their passionate disagreements about things as fundamental as the proper subject of study and the most fruitful methodology. Is China a coherent and self-sufficient subject of study? Can it be rightly and accurately characterized as a civilization so separate from the West, and so perfectly integrated within itself, as to render impossible—and even damaging—an approach to any aspect of its civilization that enables comparison? What is lost and what is gained if one chooses to focus more on Chinese poetry as poetry and less on Chinese poetry as Chinese? Is it really necessary—or possible—to choose? Or is it possible to find balance along a continuum? Of particular interest is the discourse of scholars who saw in the rise of formalist studies of literature either an opportunity or a threat. This article traces just some of the lines of resistance and exploration, convergence, and bifurcation that developed in this period, observing that the disagreements that were exercising these camps, while quite real, were not as absolute as their rhetoric would suggest. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture Duke University Press

The Elusiveness of Commonality: Late Twentieth-Century Sinology and the Search for a Shared Lyric Language

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Copyright
Copyright © 2022 by Duke University Press
ISSN
2329-0048
eISSN
2329-0056
DOI
10.1215/23290048-9681137
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

As the study of what we now call “premodern” China gained traction among students in the postwar United States, the question of how it should be approached emerged as a divisive issue among interested scholars, perhaps nowhere as much as it did among those with a particular interest in Chinese poetry. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the stakes seemed high as scholars confronted their passionate disagreements about things as fundamental as the proper subject of study and the most fruitful methodology. Is China a coherent and self-sufficient subject of study? Can it be rightly and accurately characterized as a civilization so separate from the West, and so perfectly integrated within itself, as to render impossible—and even damaging—an approach to any aspect of its civilization that enables comparison? What is lost and what is gained if one chooses to focus more on Chinese poetry as poetry and less on Chinese poetry as Chinese? Is it really necessary—or possible—to choose? Or is it possible to find balance along a continuum? Of particular interest is the discourse of scholars who saw in the rise of formalist studies of literature either an opportunity or a threat. This article traces just some of the lines of resistance and exploration, convergence, and bifurcation that developed in this period, observing that the disagreements that were exercising these camps, while quite real, were not as absolute as their rhetoric would suggest.

Journal

Journal of Chinese Literature and CultureDuke University Press

Published: Apr 1, 2022

References