Form and Transformation in Modern Chinese Poetry and Poetics

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Form and Transformation in Modern Chinese Poetry and Poetics

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Title: Form and Transformation in Modern Chinese Poetry and Poetics
Author: Skerratt, Brian Phillips
Citation: Skerratt, Brian Phillips. 2013. Form and Transformation in Modern Chinese Poetry and Poetics. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Hu Shi began the modern Chinese New Poetry movement by calling for the liberation of poetic forms, but what constitutes "form" and how best to approach its liberation have remained difficult issues, as the apparent material, objective reality of literary form is shown to be deeply embedded both culturally and historically. This dissertation presents five movements of the dialectic between form and history, each illustrated by case studies drawn from the theory and practice of modern Chinese poetry: first, the highly political and self-contradictory demand for linguistic transparency; second, the discourse surrounding poetic obscurity and alternative approaches to the question of "meaning"; third, a theory of poetry based on its musicality and a reading practice that emphasizes sameness over difference; four, poetry's status as "untranslatable" as against Chinese poetry's reputation as "already translated"; and fifth, the implications of an "iconic" view of poetic language. By reading a selection of poets and schools through the lens of their approaches to form, I allow the radical difference within the tradition to eclipse the more familiar contrast of modern Chinese poetry with its foreign and pre-modern others. My dissertation represents a preliminary step towards a historically-informed formalism in the study of modern Chinese literature.
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