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Reading in Chinese and Western Literary Traditions – Tang

July 5, 2013

Yanfang Tang once wrote:

Du shi (‘understanding poetry’) or jie shi (‘interpreting poetry’)?

Many Western critics seem to take for granted that to read a poem is to understand it in terms of its linguistic meaning. They talk about ‘meaning’ or ‘text’: both words have almost become occupational clichés and have caused endless debates in contemporary Western literary criticism. Yet questions like ‘Is there an objective meaning in the text?’, ‘Where is the text located, in the author, reader or text itself?’ and so on, have hardly surfaced in Chinese literary discussions. For Chinese critics and poets, reading a literary text is not so much a cognitive as an aesthetic activity. To engage in a poem is not merely to interpret its linguistic meaning, but to have an evaluative and, above all, an emotional response to it.” (p.151)

I found this so thought-provoking.

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine; italics in original) Yanfang Tang ‘Cognition or Affective Experience: Theory and Practice of Reading in Chinese and Western Literary Traditions’ in Comparative Literature Spring 1997, 49(2); pp.151-175


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