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郭建:Book review:Allegoresis: Reading Canonical Literature East and West.

更新时间:2009-06-29 12:36:28
作者: 郭建 (进入专栏)  

   . . of our knowledge of poetry—supranational poetry—with poetics” (pp. 70-71). While the postcolonial critique championed by scholars like Edward Said and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak may have achieved its goals brilliantly in challenging a dominant Eurocentric comparativism from the position of the peripheral, the “Other,” and the subaltern but also encountered its own limitations, especially in an age of globalization—so much so that Spivak has only recently resorted to an idiom of clinical emergency (“the last gasp of a dying discipline,” for instance) to express hope in her 2003 Wellek Library Lectures on a new, “planetary” comparative literature (G. C. Spivak, Death of a Discipline. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003)—a supranational perspective adopted for a more level playing field in East-West studies, an approach pioneered by Qian Zhongshu (Guan zhui bian管錐編 [The Tube and Awl Chapters], 1979; Tan yi lu談藝錄 [Discourses on the Literary Art],1984) and James J. Y. Liu (Chinese Theories of Literature , 1975; Language-Paradox-Poetics: A Chinese Perspective, 1988) and magisterially demonstrated by Zhang Longxi in Allegoresis and in his earlier work The Tao and the Logos: Literary Hermeneutics, East and West (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1992), is breaking a new ground for comparative literature.

  The point of departure for Allegoresis is the author’s keen observation that certain texts, particularly canonical ones like the Bible and the Confucian Book of Poetry, are traditionally interpreted as meaning something other than what the texts literally mean. Take a well-known image from the Song of Solomon, for instance: the two breasts of the beloved, “like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies” are identified in some of the Jewish midrashic exegeses as Moses and Aaron, and the theme of love and union between bride and bridegroom depicted with all its sensual beauty is generally understood as the divine love between Yahweh and Israel, and later, in Christian allegorization, as love between Christ and the Church. Likewise, “Guan ju,” the first poem in the Chinese Shi jing, or the Book of Poetry, a lovely little song about the beauty of a girl and the joy and lovesickness of a gentleman courting her, is the prime target of elaborate moral-political exegesis in over two thousand years of Chinese canonical commentaries and has long become, among many other interpretations, an encomium of the virtuous queen of the Confucian ideal ruler King Wen of the Zhou Dynasty (d. 1027 BCE). Why, then, are these canonical texts, different in themselves and divergent in their cultural origins, read, or misread, in a similar way? What are the moral, political, and religious frameworks within which such reading takes place? And is it possible to translate the concept of the allegorical across linguistic and cultural boundaries? These are some of the questions that drive the theoretical venture of Allegoresis. The last question is especially important not only because it points directly to the thesis of the book but also because Zhang’s full and positive answer to this question, along with his insightful note on reading and politics, makes Allegoresis one of the few most informed and most forceful critique of the intellectual and theoretical fashion still reigning in the academy today.

  It may appear counter-intuitive, even counter-productive, to raise such a question when examples seem already to speak for themselves. Anyway, Qian Zhongshu finished the monumental Guan Zhui Bian bringing together divergent texts from distant corners of the world without ever asking the question about translatability or comparability. But, in an age of cultural relativism in which a philosophy of difference has effectively deconstructed the concept of commonality and, along with it, the grounds for comparison, Zhang Longxi no longer had that luxury, which is why he begins the book with a long introduction validifying cross-cultural understanding. Invoking the sophistry of Zhuangzi—“You are not me, how do you know that I do not know about fish’s happiness?” Zhuangzi asks Huizi, a skeptic and a relativist—along with the relevant ideas of Aristotle, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Martha Nussbaum, and others about how one knows, especially how one knows the other, Zhang rejects the relativist’s unreflective certainty in his negative knowledge absolutizing difference and argues from a position like Zhuangzi’s, at once universalist and egalitarian, that “the belief in the possibility of common knowledge and cross-cultural understanding, in the availability of conceptual tools for the interpretation of human behavior across the boundaries of language, geography, culture, and time, can indeed come from a genuine appreciation of the equal capabilities of different individuals, peoples, and nations” (p. 11). To clear the ground for an exploration of such knowledge and understanding, Zhang goes on to dispute several well-known positions in the field of China studies that insist on drastic polarities and dichotomies between East and West.(点击此处阅读下一页)


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