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Chinese Theories of Reading and Writing
A Route to Hermeneutics and Open Poetics
Chinese Theories of Reading and Writing
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Ming Dong Gu - Author
SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 348 pages
Release Date: April 2005
ISBN10: 0-7914-6423-7
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6423-6

Price: $33.95 
Paperback - 348 pages
Release Date: June 2006
ISBN10: 0-7914-6424-5
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6424-3

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Summary Read First Chapter image missing

A groundbreaking work that uncovers an implicit system of hermeneutics in traditional Chinese thought and aesthetics.

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.

“…Gu’s study is an important one that bridges Chinese and Western traditions of thought … a fine contribution to the East-West comparative endeavor and an insightful read.” — Journal of Chinese Philosophy

“…[an] original and ambitious book…” — Consciousness, Literature and the Arts

"An original, important, and extremely exciting analysis of Chinese theories of reading and writing within a larger theoretical and comparative framework." — Michael J. Puett, author of To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China

"This book is filled with insights into the nature and making of Chinese hermeneutical tradition and poetry. Its sensitive, informed, and nuanced analysis of Chinese hermeneutical tradition and its Western counterpart constitutes an important contribution to comparative poetics and Chinese literary studies." — Fusheng Wu, author of The Poetics of Decadence: Chinese Poetry of the Southern Dynasties and Late Tang Periods

Ming Dong Gu is Assistant Professor of Modern Languages at Rhodes College.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Hermeneutic Openness: A Transcultural Phenomenon

The Rise of Hermeneutic Openness
Origins of Openness in China
Origins of Openness in the West
Paradoxes in Interpretive Theories
Two Hermeneutic Traditions in China
Objectives and Scope of Inquiry
Assumptions and Orientations

Part I: Conceptual Inquiries into Reading and Openness

1. Theories of Reading and Writing in Intellectual Thought

Reading in a Comparative Context
Mencius' Positive Thesis of Reading
Zhuangzi's Counterstatement
Mencius' Hermeneutic Circle
Zhuangzi's Wordless Communication
Views of Reading after Mencius and Zhuangzi
A Chinese Model of Reading and Writing

2. Hermeneutic Openness in Aesthetic Thought

Suggestiveness as an Aesthetic Category
Yiyin (Lingering Sound) and Yiwei (Lingering Taste)
Bujin zhiyi (Endless Meaning): Multivalence and Polysemy
Hanxu (Reserve): Unlimited Semiosis
Wu (Ontological Non-Being): Self-Generative Suggestiveness
Beyond Aesthetic Suggestiveness

Part II: Zhouyi Hermeneutics

3. The Zhouyi and Open Representation

The Zhouyi as a System of Representation
The Eight Trigrams as an Open System of Representation
The Mechanisms of Openness in Hexagram Images
Open Representation in Hexagram and Line Statements
Indeterminacy in Zhouyi's Genesis
Ideas of Openness in Zhouyi Intellectual Thought
A Semiotic Model of Reading and Representation
The Source of the Zhouyi's Seductive Power

4. Elucidation of Images: Ancient Insights into Modern Ideas of Reading and Writing

Situating The Hermeneutic Controversy
Mingxiang as a Hermeneutic Issue
Wang Bi as an Innovative Synthesizer
The Controversy over "Forgetting Images"
A Distinction between Meaning and Significance
Premodern Husserlians and Heideggerians
The Death of the Author and Rise of the Reader
Conceptual Significance of the Paradigm shift
Concluding Remarks

Part III: Shijing Hermeneutics

5. The Shijing and Open Poetics

Literary Openness in the Shijing
The Open Textuality of "Guanju"
Textual and Extratextual Indeterminacy
A Notion of Open Field
Paronomastic Reading and Writing

6. Shijing Hermeneutics: Blindness and Insight

In Search of Original Intentions
Two Paradigms: One Orientation
Indeterminate Subject Position
From Allegory To Open Readings
A Writing Model of Intertextual Dissemination

Part IV: Literary Hermeneutics

7. Open Poetics in Chinese Poetry

Spatial Form and Linguistic Economy
The "Eye" of Openness
Symbiosis of Opposite Aesthetic Feelings
Metaphysical Emptiness
Serial Form and Oriented Openness

8. Linguistic Openness and the Poetic Unconscious

Openness and Poetic Language
Openness and Syntactic Ambiguity
Dream Language and the Poetic Unconscious
Juxtaposition and Multidetermination
Metaphor, Metonymy and Signifying Practice
The "Soul" of Openness

Conclusion. Toward A Self-Conscious Open Poetics in Reading and Writing

How Open Is A Literary Text?
Le Mot Juste and Endless Meaning
Hermeneutic Openness Is A Positive Thing


Works Cited


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