Features 355 Stephen Owen. The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center. Harvard University Press, 2006. 360 pp. Hardcover $49.95, Isbn: 9780674021365. It takes very powerful scholarship to demolish long-held conventional views and tear the veil from dim eyes. We have grown so comfortable with a particular account of early Chinese classical poetry, with its convincing narrative of "growing sophistication," its "landmark poems" (the "Nineteen Ancient Songs" in particular), and its heroes. Reading Stephen Owen's The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry shocked me, the way a seismic shift in paradigms will. Maybe it should not have come as a shock; sure, I had noticed that formulaic language and stock expressions occur and reoccur through these poems, and I had begun to grasp how excavated manuscripts have destabilized our view of Warring States texts (see note 2, below). But it never occurred to me to carry such insights through to their logical conclusion. It takes a sustained application of skeptical inquiry, powerful ratiocination, and considerable imagination to see through our unquestioned assumptions and make us envision things anew. Owen has accomplished this, convincingly. We can never read these poems quite the same way
China Review International – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Nov 28, 2008
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