Invoking the Ritual Discourse: Re-defining the early Odes Tradition from received Instances of the Odes''Ritual Retrieval
Grundmann, Joern Peter
Quoting the ritual discourse:
Re-defining the early odes tradition from their received instances of oral ritual retrieval
The present dissertation deals with the nature of the odes (shi「詩」) texts, now to be found in the Eastern Han Book of Songs (Shijing《詩經》) anthology, as can it can observed from numerous descriptions of their oral recitation in extant early Warring States texts. My goal is to show that instead of an often assumed hermeneutic continuity between received instances of textual retrieval of the odes in pre-Qin times and post-Han Shijing hermeneutics respectively, the former represent a largely oral textual praxis that behaves very differently from later Shijing reading habits. Accordingly, the prominence of the odes in pre-imperial times should be explained on the grounds of the former, rather than by referring to the received Han readings.
Following traditional readings, imperial and modern scholars alike mostly view the Shijing texts as reflecting events of composition, containing individual or collective authors’ poetic messages. However, in pre-Qin poetry citation (yin shi引詩) and recitation (fushi賦詩), the only evidence we have of the odes existence prior to early Western Han times, it was the context of the textual retrieval that informed the text of an ode from quotation to quotation, whereas the poetic message itself did not relate to compositional events or authorial intent. In all received instances of poetry citation and recitation, the odes are treated as communal ritual texts, transmitted to be put to use in ritual and political exchange. They provided constant ritual patterns to be filled with the particularities of a given event.
The goal of my dissertation is to elucidate how the odes constituted and functioned as a defined group of cultural texts before their final canonization, by probing into the circumstances, forms and purposes of their earliest attestable use, namely the recitation instances (fushi) to be found in the Zuozhuan and in the Guoyu. The main focus of my investigation lies on how the oral components of the odes’ texts came to function in the sign-system of pre-Qin ritual exchange. How did rhyme and other phonologic patterns contribute to the efficacy of the odes’ text in ritual discourse? In how far did they help to create texts that were stable in their verbal structure, but at the same time were able to embody different meanings according to changing contexts?
In dealing with these questions the author relies heavily on theories on the “poetic function” and on “ritual speech-acts” brought forth among others by Roman Jakobson and Wade T. Wheelock. Both concepts, as far as they can be applied to ancient Chinese poetry, are likely to have played a major role in the functioning of a ritual sign-system called “shi” (odes).
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