- Patterns of Literary Circulation
- Authorship and Cultural Identity in Early Greece and China
- Authorship and Cultural Identity in Early Greece and China by Alexander Beecroft
- Additional Information
The author argues that the Palinode dramatizes a serious challenge to Homeric epic, one that reasserts the power of local cults over Panhellenic muthos An extended discussion of the relevant portions of the Phaedrus follows. The generic rivalry is thus seen as a mirror image of the historical struggle between epichoric and Panhellenic tendencies of the Greek world After two full chapters devoted to Greek literature the book shifts its focus to Chinese literature in chapter 5.
This chapter discussed the Panhuaxia, cosmopolitan readings of the Airs of the States. Beecroft begins the chapter by introducing the idea of indexicality and then moves on to explore its role in the interpretation of the Shijing. Indexicalization in the Shijing is also compared with the Greek concept of ainos The intertwining of cultural and political factors in the interpretation of the Shijing during the Han dynasty, which manifests itself in the complex relationship between the epichoric localised, region-specific contexts that hark back to the independent existence of the warring states and Panhuaxia imperial, cosmopolitan reading strategies, is brought to light , Interesting portions of the Shijing , e.
The sixth chapter provides an exposition of the poetics of diplomacy in the Zuozhuan. The last chapter of the book then discusses the final section of the Shijing , the Hymns , and the politics of dancing, as evidenced by the debate on the dance of King Wu of Zhou in literary discourse Beecroft concludes with the observation that Greek and Chinese poetic traditions are not as distinct as they seem at first, since implied poetics allows us to recover both the affective-expressive dimensions of Greek poetry the dominant feature of Chinese poetry and the mimetic dimensions of Chinese poetry previously thought to be absent from the Chinese poetic tradition A diachronic survey of the development of Greek and Chinese poetry reveals that different models of poetic emerged in Greece and China, with different implications for literary development in later times, but that both literary traditions emerged from similar contexts in which a variety of similar ideas co-existed, with one approach becoming dominant for historically contingent reasons The book is an admirable demonstration of the quality of research that can be realised through comparative inquiry.
The diachronic sketch of the development of Greek and Chinese poetry from a more locally based epichoric model to a cosmopolitan one is largely confirmed by available evidence. Beecroft makes a very compelling case for his comparative model. However, there are some minor points of detail that might be disputable.
For instance the proposition that China had a model of political unity dating back to the Zhou hegemony before the 8th century BC, which Greece apparently lacked 13 , is only partially true. As the author himself is certainly aware, the picture of Early China that we possess is heavily coloured by the attitudes of the imperial Ru classicist discourse of the Han Period that attempted to portray the early Zhou as a forerunner of the later unified empire of the Han. However, it is highly doubtful that the Zhou confederacy ever was a politically united realm.
Its unity was arguably as ephemeral and shaky as that of the Spartan hegemony in Greece. In other words we can only with caution speak of a greater sense of political unity in China than in Classical Greece. The loose authority of the Zhou even at its height was only felt in the Central Plains region and was quite ineffective elsewhere. The realms that would play decisive roles in the unification of what later became China, Qin and Chu, were hardly Huaxia.
In the case of the Chu, the language spoken by its population may not even have been Sino-Tibetan, 3 and it is unclear when and if at all the Chu kingdom was integrated into the cultural sphere of Huaxia states before unification under Qin. Nonetheless, overall this is a very impressive publication that deserves to be read widely. The author displays a very thorough understanding of Classical Chinese literature and provides a much more sophisticated comparative analysis that does justice to the complexities of both literary traditions, a feature somewhat lacking in many previous attempts at comparative analysis.
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