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Reading Philosophy, Writing Poetry

Reading Philosophy, Writing Poetry

Intertextual Modes of Making Meaning in Early Medieval China

Wendy Swartz

ISBN 9780674983823

Publication date: 03/19/2018

In a formative period of Chinese culture, early medieval writers made extensive use of a diverse set of resources, in which such major philosophical classics as Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Classic of Changes featured prominently. Reading Philosophy, Writing Poetry examines how these writers understood and manipulated a shared intellectual lexicon to produce meaning. Focusing on works by some of the most important and innovative poets of the period, this book explores intertextuality—the transference, adaptation, or rewriting of signs—as a mode of reading and a condition of writing. It illuminates how a text can be seen in its full range of signifying potential within the early medieval constellation of textual connections and cultural signs.

If culture is that which connects its members past, present, and future, then the past becomes an inherited and continually replenished repository of cultural patterns and signs with which the literati maintains an organic and constantly negotiated relationship of give and take. Wendy Swartz explores how early medieval writers in China developed a distinctive mosaic of ways to participate in their cultural heritage by weaving textual strands from a shared and expanding store of literary resources into new patterns and configurations.


  • This new study on pre-Tang classical Chinese poetry is one of a kind. For the first time, the handful of best-known poet-intellectuals from the Period of Disunion are discussed as a group…A gem. It will satisfy the expert as well as pique the interest of a novice in classical Chinese literature.

    —Ping Wang, China Review International


  • Wendy Swartz is Associate Professor of Chinese Literature at Rutgers University.

Book Details

  • 318 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center

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