The Chinese Lyric Sequence: Poems, Paintings, Anthologies

by Joseph R. Allen


“This book is the first attempt to discuss, in both theoretical and concrete terms, the historical development of an important but decidedly understudied Chinese literary form, the poetic sequence (zushi). The poetic sequence is an important form in the Chinese tradition, as it allows the poet to build a complex argument in poetic form about an issue, an experience, or a phenomenon in life. This book is the first English-language monograph to discuss the poetic sequence in the context of the historical development of this art form as a whole, and the connection made between the poetic sequence and album leaves is thought-provoking. Each chapter contains many inspired and inspiring analyses of individual texts. The writing is lucid and accessible, and the book is a great pleasure to read from beginning to end. This book will be invaluable for both specialists in the field of Chinese literature and general readers who are interested in Chinese poetry and aesthetics; it will be essential reading for scholars and students in classical Chinese literature, cultural history, and art history.” —Tian Xiaofei, Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University

“One of the great divides in Chinese literary scholarship is what constitutes ‘theory.’ If one is working on modern literature exclusively, there is a tendency to borrow and apply Western theories wholesale, not least because of the extensive influence of the West on China after the First Opium War. There is also the issue of identifying and reading Chinese works of theory, which are not constituted as they are in the West, usually affiliated with reading specific texts rather than generalizations of abstractions. Professor Allen takes up the issues of lyric sequence from the Chinese perspective, rather than imposing the norms of the Indo-European traditions upon it. As he does this, he uses language and explanations that non-specialists can understand. Professor Allen gives us a sweeping experience of lyric sequences and their strategies from the very beginning of the Chinese tradition to the present day. He has made a breakthrough in the field of poetry as it relates to painting studies and has recharged our sense of the visuality of Chinese poetry. This is certainly carried through in his analyses.” —Dore J. Levy, Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies, Brown University


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