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Poetics of Emptiness

Transformations of Asian Thought in American Poetry

Jonathan Stalling

Publication Year: 2011

Poetics of Emptiness traces the historically specific, intertextual pathways of a single, if polyvalent, philosophical term, emptiness, as it is transformed within twentieth-century American poetry and poetics. This conceptual migration is detailed in two sections. The first, focusing on “transpacific Buddhist poetics,” discusses Ernest Fenollosa’s “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry” as an expression of Fenollosa’s Buddhist poetics, explores classical Chinese poetics as it was known by Fenollosa, and talks about the role of emptiness in Gary Snyder. The second half, on “transpacific Daoist poetics,” explores the career of poet/translator/critic Wai-lim Yip and engages the weave of post-structural thought and Daoist and shamanistic discourses in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Formulating interpretive frames as hybrid as the texts being read, this book unveils one of the most important yet still largely unknown stories of American poetry and poetics.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Figures and Tables

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

In the end, I will not be able to gather the names of everyone who has contributed to this project (all my relations throughout America, China, Korea, and the UK), for its gestation has been nourished from middle school, when I first began studying Chinese and poetry. To be sure, I am...

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Prologue: Transformations of a Transpacific Imaginary

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pp. 1-8

In his essay “The Poem behind the Poem,” the translator/anthologist Tony Barnstone offers an extended discussion of his experience translating the poem reproduced above, by the Tang poet Liu Zongyuan (柳宗元, b. 773–d. 819). Before offering his translation, Barnstone leads his...

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Introduction: The Poetics of Emptiness, or a Cult of Nothingness

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pp. 9-29

For much of the nineteenth century, Buddhism, with its emphasis on the enigmatic concept of “emptiness,” was reduced to what Roger-Pol Droit has called the “cult of nothingness.” According to Droit, Buddhism, for its early-nineteenth-century Western commentators, appeared to be an...

Part One: Buddhist Imaginaries

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1. Emptiness in Flux: The Buddhist Poetics of Ernest Fenollosa’s “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry”

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pp. 33-57

On Friday, December 24, 1920, the front-page headline of the Boston Evening Transcript announced “Japan’s Tribute to Fenollosa.” Below, an image of a stone monument depicting a young Ernest Fenollosa fills more than half of the front page. The article begins: “On September 21, 1920, in the...

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2. Patterned Harmony: Buddhism, Sound, and Ernest Fenollosa’s Poetics of Correlative Cosmology

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pp. 59-95

In the late summer of 2004, I was leafing through the Fenollosa papers held in the Ezra Pound archive at Yale University’s Beinecke Library when I happened upon a startling find: its second half. While many scholars have mentioned the earlier drafts of “The Chinese Written Character as...

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3. Teaching the Law: Gary Snyder’s Poetics of Emptiness

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pp. 97-120

For Snyder, poetry (especially Chinese and Japanese poetry) is a vital resource for transmitting Buddhist dharma 法, fa (or 佛法, fofa). The term 法 (fa), like 空 (kong) and 文 (wen), is complicated and signifies different concepts within a wide range of cultural discourses. In Buddhist...

Part Two: Daoist Imaginaries

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4. Language of Emptiness: Wai-lim Yip’s Daoist Project

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pp. 123-155

In China Wai-lim Yip (葉維廉, Ye Weilian) is recognized as a major contributor to modern East-West poetics, and he was the central focus of an academic conference held at the Center for New Poetry at Beijing University in March 2008. At the conference, more than forty scholars...

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5. Pacing the Void: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée

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pp. 157-190

Through an atmosphere generated by a loose gathering of visual and cultural textures and culturally specific cues, “A BLE W AIL” calls to mind a shamanic rite, or kut, and perhaps more specifically, the Chinogwi kut, where a shaman (which in the Korean context would almost always be a...


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pp. 191-198


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pp. 199-234


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pp. 235-256


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pp. 257-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246489
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823231454

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 712990679
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Poetics of Emptiness

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American poetry -- Chinese influences.
  • Emptiness (Philosophy).
  • Philosophy -- East Asia.
  • Poetics.
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