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Chinese Theories of Reading and Writing

A Route to Hermeneutics and Open Poetics

Ming Dong Gu

Publication Year: 2005

This ambitious work provides a systematic study of Chinese theories of reading and writing in intellectual thought and critical practice. The author maintains that there are two major hermeneutic traditions in Chinese literature: the politico-moralistic mainstream and the metaphysico-aesthetical undercurrent. In exploring the interaction between the two, Ming Dong Gu finds a movement toward interpretive openness. In this, the Chinese practice anticipates modern and Western theories of interpretation, especially literary openness and open poetics. Classic Chinese works are examined, including the Zhouyi (the I Ching or Book of Changes), the Shijing (the Book of Songs or Book of Poetry), and selected poetry, along with the philosophical background of the hermeneutic theories. Ultimately, Gu relates the Chinese practices of reading to Western hermeneutics, offering a cross-cultural conceptual model for the comparative study of reading and writing in general.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

This book grows out of my long-term interest in Chinese and Western fiction and international fiction theory. It is a companion volume to my book Chinese Theories of Reading and Writing (2005). Like the other book, it represents my efforts to explore the conditions of Chinese literature, systematize Chinese literary theory, and bridge a series of gaps between ancient and modern Chinese...

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ABSTRACT: Chinese Theories of Fiction: A Non-Western Narrative System

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pp. xv-xvi

Chinese tradition has a large amount of theoretical data on fiction. Fiction studies, however, are conducted on Western theories and tend to measure the achievements of Chinese fiction by the Western yardstick. Moreover, they are largely confined to historical scholarship or practical criticism and cherish little interest in conceptual inquiries into fiction. As a result, there has...

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INTRODUCTION: Theory of Fiction: A Chinese Perspective

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pp. 1-16

Fiction is a slippery term that people have taken for granted for centuries across cultures. This is so not just for ordinary readers but also for fiction scholars. Terry Eagleton astutely observes that scholars may have been studying prose fiction for years, but “they never seem to have paused to ask themselves what prose fiction actually is. It would be like caring for an animal for years without...

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CHAPTER ONE: Chinese Notions of Fiction

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pp. 17-42

In the West, studies of fiction used to focus on the novel as a literary category, but since the 1960s, most theorists have agreed that there is no such thing as the novel. It is a literary category “that has no natural or positive existence” and that “arises and rearises in different regional cultures at different times”; and it is not a literary genre with a continuous history but...

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CHAPTER TWO: The Nature of (Chinese) Fiction

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pp. 43-70

I have examined a number of historical and ideological factors that have contributed to the complexity of Chinese fiction study, such as Confucian disparagement, the dominance of historiography, the conflation of early writing forms, and the problem of self-conscious fictionality. Because of these factors, the true nature of Chinese fiction has been shrouded in a mist of conceptual ambiguity. I think...

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CHAPTER THREE: The Aesthetic Turn in Chinese Fiction

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pp. 71-96

In his study of the four masterpieces of Ming fiction, Andrew Plaks argues convincingly that contrary to the popular belief that the four great novels are the products of popular imagination, they were really the “self-conscious artistic constructs” crystallized out of transmitted source materials, antecedent narratives, and alternate recensions by the refined imagination of the literati...

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CHAPTER FOUR: The Poetic Nature of Chinese Fiction

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pp. 97-123

In traditional Chinese literature, there is no doubt that lyrical poetry occupies an exalted position and that fiction is only its handmaiden. In the study of Chinese literature, scholars have generally separated the study of fiction from that of poetry. While this separation is justified in view of the traditional separation of poetry and prose from fiction and drama and the necessary specialization...

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CHAPTER FIVE: The Art of the Jin Ping Mei: Poetics of Pure Fiction

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pp. 125-152

I venture to suggest, however, that except for being written in the same historical period and having some similar thematic concerns and the same zhanghui style of fiction writing, the Jin Ping Mei does not have much in common with the other three novels in the domains of subject matter, creative impulse, artistic vision, and techniques of self-conscious...

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CHAPTER SIX: The Art of the Hongloumeng: Poetic Fiction and Open Fiction

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pp. 153-180

The Hongloumeng (A Dream of Red Mansions) is the apotheosis of the creative drive in Chinese fictional development that aspires to the condition of verbal art. It exemplifies the conception of pure fiction, poetic fiction, total fiction, metafiction, and, above all, open fiction that I have explored in the previous chapters. I have claimed that even though Cao Xueqin never wrote a...

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Theory of Fiction: A Chinese System

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pp. 181-209

My macro-study of Chinese fiction and micro-study of the chosen masterpieces in relation to contemporary literary theories and Western fiction have come to a close. What has gone before has paved the way for making some claims and a conceptual synthesis. It has put me in a position to claim that the great fictional works of China should be treated as monuments in the development...

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CONCLUSION: Toward a Transcultural Theory of Fiction

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pp. 211-222

Nowadays when scholars talk about fiction theory, they usually refer to European or Western fiction theory. In studies of other time-honored literary traditions, discussions of fiction theory are always based on the Western system of fictional concepts such as imitation, realism, naturalism, modernism, and postmodernism. Chinese fiction has been treated in the same way. In the worldwide...


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pp. 223-241

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 243-259


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pp. 261-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780791483473
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791464236
Print-ISBN-10: 0791464237

Page Count: 348
Publication Year: 2005