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Time and narration : a study of sequential structure in Chinese narrative verse Lin, Zongzheng

Abstract

The subject of my doctoral dissertation is sequential structure in Chinese narrative poetry, which is a fundamental feature of narrative expression in Chinese poetry. Texts and genres covered include the Shijing (Book of Songs), Music Bureau (yuefu) and ancient-style poetry (gushi) of the latter Han and Six Dynasties, Tang poetry, and Early Qing poetry. The main purposes of my study are to examine the development of sequential structure, primarily non-temporal and anachronic sequential structures, in Chinese narrative poetry, as well as to explore the interplay of sequential structure between poetry and other literary genres. My dissertation found that the development of sequential structure in Chinese poetry can be divided into four stages. The first stage extends from the Shijing to the Han and Six Dynasties. The development of sequential structure in Chinese poetry originated in the Shijing, the sequential structure of which became the foundation of sequencing in Chinese poetry during subsequent ages. This tradition of sequencing evolved further in the Han and Six Dynasties. The second stage comprises the Tang dynasty, when the development of sequential structure reached its first high point. No further significant progress in narrative poetic development was made in the third stage, stretching from the Song to the Ming, and the development of sequencing stagnated. Lastly, the fourth stage began in the Early Qing dynasty when the successful development of narrative poetry revitalized the development of sequencing in Chinese poetry, beginning a golden period of Chinese narrative poetry, especially long narrative poetry. My dissertation research makes potential contributions to the following three areas: it reviews the status of a number of poets in the development of Chinese poetry; it assesses the significance of certain poetic works in the development of Chinese poetry; and it appraises the contribution of the poetic works of a specific period, e.g., Tang poetry, to the development of Chinese poetry. Furthermore, understanding the tradition of Chinese narrative poetry can help us comprehend the scope of lyricism in Chinese poetry that is the main focus in traditional Chinese literary criticism. Furthermore, such an understanding is a key to studying narrative forms in Chinese literature in general.

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