Creativity and Convention in Su Shi’s Literary Thought

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This is the first extensive study of the concept of “rule” in Su Shi (c. 1065) and its application to his prose. It argues that his understanding of literary rules and conventions was predicated on a wider concept of regulation in every human sphere. Su’s application of rules and conventions is analysed in three prose genres: funerary writing, literary accounts and rhapsodies.


“A thoughtful contribution to Su Shi studies. Particularly useful for its study of Su Shi’s approach to well established genres such as funerary writing and the literary account of ji.” – Peter K. Bol, Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

“Su Shi is one of the most important intellectuals and writers in the history of Chinese literature. There is much interest in him both in China and in the West .… part one… examines Su Shi’s intellectual life and how this affected his life as an official and as a private person. She discusses his view of the Way (dao) of the ancient sages of China and its transmission, the Confucian Classics, his views on Buddhism and Daoism and his insistence that all schools of philosophy ought to be drawn upon and that al of them had a contribution to make to intellectual and official life….according to Su it was the role of the man of letters to extend the limits imposed by generic expectations without abusing the original intention of the genre. How he did this is discussed in the second part of the book, which deals with Su Shi’s practice as a writer.” – Dr. A. D. Stefanowska, University of Sydney

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Introduction: Views of Su Shi’s rules of literary creation; In search of Su Shi’s ‘ideas’; Interpretations of “Read ‘Tan Gong’” ; Toward an understanding of Su Shi’s view of rules and conventions
Part One: Rules and Conventions
· The Origins of Rules and Conventions
· Advancing Tradition
Part Two: Generic Restrictions and Prescribed Forms
· Rejection of the “Inflexible” Genres (Su Shi and Funerary Writing)
· Restoration of the Received Genres (Su Shi and the Literary Account (ji))
· Generic Innovations (Su Shi and the Rhapsody (fu))
Bibliography; Index; Chinese Character List

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