UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wu Wenying and the art of Southern Song ci poetry Fong, Grace S.


The thesis studies the ci poetry of Wu Wenying (c.1200-c.1260) in the context of Southern Song ci poetics and aims to establish its significance in contemporary developments and in the tradition of ci criticism. Chapter One explores the moral and aesthetic implications of Wu's life as a "guest-poet" patronized by officials and aristocrats, and profiles two relationships in Wu's life, the loss of which generated a unique corpus of love poetry. To define the art of Southern Song ci, Chapter Two elucidates current stylistic trends, poetics, and aesthetics of ci, examining critical concepts in two late Song treatises, the Yuefu zhimi and Ciyuan. The Yuefu zhimi's critical canons embody Wu's poetics of indirection, which favours allusive and connotative language and produces imagistic and semantic density in the poetic structure. In opposition to Wu's poetics of density, an aspect of indirection, the Ciyuan proposes a poetics of transparency. Finally, the chapter analyzes Wu's poetics of density to illuminate the salient characteristics of his art. Chapter Three provides stylistic, thematic, and structural exegeses of Wu's poems within a literary-historical perspective. The dichotomy between verbal artifice and poetic metaphor in his yongwu ci (poems on objects) and between self and other in his occasional poems is found to rest on the fundamental differentiation between poetry as social art and poetry as self-expression. Significantly, the metaphoric dimension of his yongwu poems illustrates evolutionary possibilities of the subgenre in ci. Wu's love poetry originates in an idee fixe, a persistent longing for the beloved, which is translated into recurrent images and motifs embedded in his most elegant diction, representing a superb union of language and emotion. The thesis concludes with an overview of Wu Wenying criticism, which shows a dominant focus on the stylistic art of Southern Song ci. Wu's poetry has won both critical acclaim and dispprobation for its surface elegance and verbal density. Only in the nineteenth century did the Changzhou School of ci criticism, with its emphasis on interpretation of meaning as the criterion, achieve an integral appreciation of Wu Wenying's poetry.

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