Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The brocade of words: Imitation poetry and poetics in the Six Dynasties
by Williams, Nicholas Morrow, Ph.D., University of Washington, 2010, 519; 3406043
Abstract (Summary)

Writing necessarily involves creative imitation of earlier models, even for the most accomplished writers from Virgil to Shakespeare and from Yang Xiong to Li Bai. The first chapter of this dissertation examines some prominent critical treatments of imitation in the Western tradition, and presents self-conscious imitation of literary models as a fundamental aspect of literary art. The second chapter then explores attitudes and theories about imitation in China during the Six Dynasties period (220-589 C.E.). In the Qi-Liang period (479-557), in particular, imitation was one component of a profound theoretical synthesis between the opposing demands of innovation and tradition.

In the Six Dynasties imitation was not just an aspect of literature but a distinct literary form, the imitation poem. This was a special genre of pentasyllabic verse that aimed explicitly to imitate earlier models, whether individual poets or poems. The key figure is Jiang Yan (444-505), who wrote a series of thirty "Poems in Diverse Forms" ("Zati shi") imitating poets up to his own time, but other prominent imitation writers include Lu Ji (261-303) and Xie Lingyun (385-433). The third, fourth, and fifth chapters of this dissertation examine imitations of the developmental stage of pentasyllabic verse in the third and fourth centuries, showing the constant symbiosis between imitation poetry and the development of pentasyllabic verse. The sixth and seventh chapters then work out the relevance of imitation to the particular topics of travel and exchange poetry.

The final chapter focuses on the poetic oeuvre of Jiang Yan himself, in which imitation serves as a mask for political and psychological conflicts. Six Dynasties imitation thus has a dual role. It is a purposive engagement with the literary past that builds the continuity of tradition, but also a means of expression for the most devastatingly personal concerns. In the tension between these roles lies the permanent interest of literary imitation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Knechtges, David R.
Commitee:
School: University of Washington
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-A 71/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Asian literature
Keywords: China, Imitation, Imitation poetry, Jiang, Yan, Literary imitation, Poetry, Six Dynasties, Six Dynasties poetry
Publication Number: 3406043
ISBN: 978-1-109-72453-0
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