Behind Literary Creation: Lu Ji’s Ideas and Fears about Writing

Behind Literary Creation: Lu Ji’s Ideas and Fears about Writing

Wendy Swartz - Associate Professor of Chinese Literature, Rutgers University

Tuesday, April 3, 2018 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
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Room 203, Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511

In one of the greatest works of meta-literature in Chinese history, “Rhapsody on Literature” 文賦, Lu Ji陸機 (261-303), not only sets forth theories and practices of literary composition, but also candidly discusses the various fearsome and obsessive challenges that concern the writer. These challenges range from the difficulty in finding at times le mot juste, the occasional disconnection between idea formation and articulation, to the dread of inadvertently imitating or duplicating a prior work. The last problem is especially revelatory of the angst-generating literary contradictions of early medieval Chinese society. While originality was not openly demanded in a labor that assumes extensive reading as a prerequisite for writing, it was nevertheless somehow expected to emerge as the author goes along conforming to past models and citing predecessors as the cultural norm expects. This lecture will explore how Lu Ji traces the process of the creative act and the questions his work of meta-literature raises about reading and writing, originality and tradition, and conception and representation.

Professor Swartz is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of Graduate Studies of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at Rutgers University. She is the author of Reading Philosophy, Writing Poetry: Intertextual Modes of Making Meaning in Early Medieval China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2018), which examines how poets understood and appropriated a shared intellectual vocabulary in early medieval China. She is also the author of Reading Tao Yuanming: Shifting Paradigms of Historical Reception (427-1900) (Harvard University Asia Center, 2008), which critically examines readings of both Tao and his oeuvre over a fifteen-hundred year span. Professor Swartz is the principal editor of Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook (Columbia University Press, 2014), and the translator of The Poetry of Xi Kang (De Gruyter, 2017), part of the third volume in the Chinese Humanities Library. She provides the first complete translation in a western language of the poetry and fu of Xi Kang. Professor Swartz received her Ph.D in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles.