Chinese Theories of Reading and Writing

A Route to Hermeneutics and Open Poetics

By Ming Dong Gu

Subjects: Comparative Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791464243, 348 pages, June 2006
Hardcover : 9780791464236, 348 pages, April 2005

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Table of contents


Introduction: Hermeneutic Openness: A Transcultural Phenomenon


The Rise of Hermeneutic Openness
Origins of Openness in China
Origins of Openness in the West
Paradoxes in Interpretive Theories
Two Hermeneutic Traditions in China
Objectives and Scope of Inquiry
Assumptions and Orientations


Part I: Conceptual Inquiries into Reading and Openness

1. Theories of Reading and Writing in Intellectual Thought


Reading in a Comparative Context
Mencius' Positive Thesis of Reading
Zhuangzi's Counterstatement
Mencius' Hermeneutic Circle
Zhuangzi's Wordless Communication
Views of Reading after Mencius and Zhuangzi
A Chinese Model of Reading and Writing


2. Hermeneutic Openness in Aesthetic Thought


Suggestiveness as an Aesthetic Category
Yiyin (Lingering Sound) and Yiwei (Lingering Taste)
Bujin zhiyi (Endless Meaning): Multivalence and Polysemy
Hanxu (Reserve): Unlimited Semiosis
Wu (Ontological Non-Being): Self-Generative Suggestiveness
Beyond Aesthetic Suggestiveness


Part II: Zhouyi Hermeneutics

3. The Zhouyi and Open Representation


The Zhouyi as a System of Representation
The Eight Trigrams as an Open System of Representation
The Mechanisms of Openness in Hexagram Images
Open Representation in Hexagram and Line Statements
Indeterminacy in Zhouyi's Genesis
Ideas of Openness in Zhouyi Intellectual Thought
A Semiotic Model of Reading and Representation
The Source of the Zhouyi's Seductive Power


4. Elucidation of Images: Ancient Insights into Modern Ideas of Reading and Writing


Situating The Hermeneutic Controversy
Mingxiang as a Hermeneutic Issue
Wang Bi as an Innovative Synthesizer
The Controversy over "Forgetting Images"
A Distinction between Meaning and Significance
Premodern Husserlians and Heideggerians
The Death of the Author and Rise of the Reader
Conceptual Significance of the Paradigm shift
Concluding Remarks


Part III: Shijing Hermeneutics

5. The Shijing and Open Poetics


Literary Openness in the Shijing
The Open Textuality of "Guanju"
Textual and Extratextual Indeterminacy
A Notion of Open Field
Paronomastic Reading and Writing


6. Shijing Hermeneutics: Blindness and Insight


In Search of Original Intentions
Two Paradigms: One Orientation
Indeterminate Subject Position
From Allegory To Open Readings
A Writing Model of Intertextual Dissemination


Part IV: Literary Hermeneutics

7. Open Poetics in Chinese Poetry


Spatial Form and Linguistic Economy
The "Eye" of Openness
Symbiosis of Opposite Aesthetic Feelings
Metaphysical Emptiness
Serial Form and Oriented Openness


8. Linguistic Openness and the Poetic Unconscious


Openness and Poetic Language
Openness and Syntactic Ambiguity
Dream Language and the Poetic Unconscious
Juxtaposition and Multidetermination
Metaphor, Metonymy and Signifying Practice
The "Soul" of Openness


Conclusion. Toward A Self-Conscious Open Poetics in Reading and Writing


How Open Is A Literary Text?
Le Mot Juste and Endless Meaning
Hermeneutic Openness Is A Positive Thing



Works Cited


A groundbreaking work that uncovers an implicit system of hermeneutics in traditional Chinese thought and aesthetics.


This ambitious work provides a systematic study of Chinese theories of reading and writing in intellectual thought and critical practice. The author maintains that there are two major hermeneutic traditions in Chinese literature: the politico-moralistic mainstream and the metaphysico-aesthetical undercurrent. In exploring the interaction between the two, Ming Dong Gu finds a movement toward interpretive openness. In this, the Chinese practice anticipates modern and Western theories of interpretation, especially literary openness and open poetics. Classic Chinese works are examined, including the Zhouyi (the I Ching or Book of Changes), the Shijing (the Book of Songs or Book of Poetry), and selected poetry, along with the philosophical background of the hermeneutic theories. Ultimately, Gu relates the Chinese practices of reading to Western hermeneutics, offering a cross-cultural conceptual model for the comparative study of reading and writing in general.

Ming Dong Gu is Assistant Professor of Modern Languages at Rhodes College.