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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Making Space in Song China
3: Poetic Geography: Building Literary Space in Song Local Gazetteers
Monday, March 22, 2021
12:30pm – 2:00pm EDT
University of Pennsylvania, United States
Many local gazetteers from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) quote poetry in abundance. While scholars have noticed the increasing number of poems in gazetteers after the mid-twelfth century, no one has examined the roles poetry played in this non-literary genre. My paper looks into the various ways of quoting poetry in extant sources, and explores how author, style, organizing principle, and changing context could create a literary space that endow the physical one with new meanings. Unlike earlier geographies that only quote poems as evidence, Song local gazetteers include poems to code distinct dimensions of cultural politics: canonical works were curated to create pseudo-literary gatherings in the past, poems in obsolete styles were excavated to fashion new identities, and common poetic objects were used to connect with famous figures unrelated to the area. Mapping the gazetteers against contemporary political events, I show that quoting-patterns can not only reveal different cultural dispositions each region had in relation to the state, but also trace a locale’s changing attitude toward controversial policies of the day. Both aspects may expand and complicate Robert Hymes’ “local turn” hypothesis that has been subject to intense debate in the field in the last three decades.