turn 轉 ,] response 合 ). W r i t i n g

turn 轉 ,] response 合 ). W r i t i n g

Early and High Tang poetry set a premium on unity. There should be the formal unity of both the parallel couplet and regulated verse structure (introduction 起, elaboration 承, [turn 轉,] response 合). There should be thematic unity: one states the theme and calls forth the appropriate allusions and images. That is, there is a “thing” the poem is about, and one should not lose sight of that “thing” in writing. There also usually is a unity of perspective: one stands with the author and views the scene.

These rules for the crafting of a poem break down after the An Lushan rebellion. In Late Tang poetry, for example, couplet-crafting becomes more important at the expense of the poem as an integrated whole. Still, the idea of a poem as an integral unit remains. The question is, “What is the basis for this unity?” What belongs in a poem? How much belongs in a poem? What holds a poem together as a single “thing?” Consider, for example, the complexity of Bai Juyi’s “Song of the Pipa.” The poem is a good example of one new, more complex aesthetic: it is not heterogeneous despite its length and despite its various stylistic shifts.

For your second paper, I would like you to discuss a later Tang poem as a poem, as a constructed object. I would like you to explain the rules by which it coheres. Does it follow the formal unities of the High Tang? Are the parallel couplets, for example, truly parallel, or is the author using the generic requirements to in fact yoke together very different sorts of categories? Do the couplets evolve easily from one to the next, or are the shifts hard to follow? If they are difficult, try to think of what validates the shifts. Are the couplets different aspects of experience with a particular object (the topic of the poem), or do they perhaps reflect the movement of the author’s mind as it shifts from image to image? In the end, what is the point of the complex structure that is the poem, and how do the pieces fit together?

If you wish to try your hand at the quatrain form, take several examples to present what you think underlies the quatrain as an aesthetic unity. If you choose Meng Jiao or Han Yu, I recommend you consult Stephen Owen for a reading of the poem. He won’t directly address this particular issue but will give you ideas to think about. Similarly, if you choose Li Shangyin, consult James Liu. For Li He, use the Frodsham with a bit of care. He is not an entirely reliable guide. For Wen Tingyun, Paul Rouzer’s book has good readings and discussions. Chinese sources on the web are not that useful for this assignment since they might say that “a sad mood” unifies the poem, but that is not really all that helpful in explaining the structure of the poem or the particular images and wording the poet uses.

The paper should be about 5 pages long with the usual rules about formatting (Double spaced, font no larger than 12 point; margins no wider than 1 inch.) I encourage you to give me a rough draft that we can then talk about.

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