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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The poetics of erotic imagery in Shen yue Walker, Janet Fong Yee


The development of love poetry during the late Southern Dynasties period reveals several important shifts in erotic imagery used. During this time, Shen Yue (441-513) was a very influential poet. This thesis examines how Shen Yue manipulated erotic imagery to effect profoundly the evolution of the love poem in the Qi-Liang age. This evolution reflected social movements that were occurring simultaneously, and that were propelling love poetry towards greater sophistication. Literary society, influenced by the aristocratic mores of the time, was separating into literary cliques centred about the royal family. This elitist culture encouraged the development of dualities of inclusion/ exclusion through promoting certain imagery in love poetry. This thesis examines four realms of Shen Yue's erotic imagery for the appearance of aristocratizing mechanisms: those of cosmological, natural and artificial origin together with that of the female figure. These four areas reveal Shen Yue's constant agenda; namely, increasing the strictness of codification within each area while modifying the range of referents included. Shen Yue carries out both of these operations to increase the sophistication and urbanity of his works, successfully creating an aristocratic ethos in his poems. Consequently, the success of Shen Yue's work with erotic imagery is shown in its influence upon the following school of Palace-style poets, who continued in developing the aristocratic and cultured aspects of love poetry.

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