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102 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 Eva Shan Chou. Reconsidering Tu Fu. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. xi, 237 pp. Hardcover, isbn 0-521-44039-4. Eva Shan Chou announces her aim immediately in the preface to her new book: she hopes to adapt traditional approaches to Du Fu's poetry and improve our understanding ofhis work while avoiding the "naivete ofa fresh Western approach." With all the notes, Chinese texts, and references to Chinese literati, this work aims at serious Western students ofold Chinese poetry. Yet most will find Professor Chou's intentions peculiar. Haven't traditional Chinese scholars mined out all ofthe traditional approaches? Ifwe don't adopt and adapt the tools ofmodern literary criticism, how can we hope to say anything fresh about Du Fu, and why would we want to read a book that doesn't? Chou begins by reviewing Du Fu's legacy. In the midst ofthe familiar chorus of adulation, non-Du Fu specialists will find a few interesting tidbits—for example , that Tang commentators valued Du Fu's verse as poetry, not as an index to his moral stature (p. 34) or that Song poets also cherished Du Fu's zuoyi haoqi "artificing intent and fondness for the unusual" (p. 24) (this phrase gets mistranslated in the book). Overall, this chapter deftly retells an oft-told story. Chapter 2 treats the hackneyed topic ofDu Fu's social conscience partly in a new way. Chou demonstrates (pp. 75-76 et seq.) how Du Fu blurred ballads and ancient-style verse by mixing different levels oflanguage. Though the book has a hard time convincing us that ancient-style verse must use "realism" and that the "real" must necessarily prove more vivid and exciting than the ballads' formulaic language (see esp. p. 92), Chou asks some worthwhile questions. Her comments on why Du Fu changed but did not abandon ballad form (pp. 97-98) are among the most acute pages in this book. Her analyses ofwhy this conflict between "realism " and "stylized realism" later subsided and yet continued to influence Du Fu's late verse also bear careful consideration (pp. 103-104). Chapters 3 and 4, halfthe book, treat a familiar characteristic of Du Fu's style in a most peculiar way. Many commentators have noted Du Fu's "shifting style" (Stephen Owen, in The GreatAge ofChinese Poetry, p. 184, has as good a formulation as any)—the sudden transformations in topic, mood, and diction that enable his verse to link different realms and perspectives within just a few lines. Reconsidering Tu Fu chooses to call this feature "juxtaposition." At first, Chou wants to isolate juxtaposition as a structural device. Thus, in chapter 3 she forbids any re-© 1997 by University course to a poem's dramatic speaker and, not surprisingly, finds shifts in tone, ofHawai'i Presstopic, and mood unjustified (p. 115), "disjunctive" (p. 117), "inexplicable" (p. 118), and incoherent (p. 118). But later we find a dichotomy between contrast and juxtaposition , defined as differing because contrast involves authorial intent while Reviews 103 juxtaposition demands authorial inadvertence, an involuntary outpouring of feeling that annihilates structure (see esp. pp. 154-155). It becomes clear that, for Chou, juxtaposing poems will remain "flawed" (p. 118) and "fractured" (p. 177) unless we reintroduce Du Fu as a "biographical analogue" to redeem matters. Unsurprisingly—in the context ofmuch traditional Chinese poetics—Chou validates such poetry by claiming that the author gets overwhelmed by strong emotions and simply pours out his feelings in a direct, unmediated way (see esp. p. 180). Poet triumphs over poem. Chou's remarks at the end ofchapter 4 (p. 196) state her conclusion quite eloquently. The book then concludes with a short paean to Du Fu's sincerity. It cites a number oftraditional Chinese commentators who valued "sincerity," then abruptly claims that Du Fu's own sincerity ensures "the authenticity ofhis genius and the infinite humanness ofits product, his poetry " and guarantees Du Fu's survival in our modern world (p. 207). Throughout, Chou displays a sincere regard for Du Fu's verse and a thorough knowledge ofrelevant Chinese sources. She treats traditional commentators with respect and even...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 102-110
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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