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Chinese Literature, Ancient and Classical [Hardcover]

Andre Levy , William Nienhauser Jr
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 May 2000
Andre Levy sets out in this slim volume to provide a picture of Chinese literature of the past. He does so not in lengthy dissertations on literature, but by blending the colours of approximately 120 vivid translations with his personal insights on these works, and then framing these readings in innovative historical accounts. The result is a brilliant illustration of the four basic literary groups of traditional China: the classics, poetry, prose, and the literature of entertainment. Although Levy's narrative relates literary evolution to parallels in political and social history, he is less dependent on the political chronology of dynasties than previous histories of Chinese literature. Levy's generic approach, moreover, provides a greater insight into how these four basic types of literature developed and why they became the foundations of Chinese literature. In the first chapter, Levy sees the classics as a response to troubled times and argues for modern parallels. His treatment of prose as the second of these literary types reflects both Chinese taste and historical fact. Aware that Chinese critics have long argued their literature was essentially lyric, Levy offers 50 translations in his account in chapter 3 of how various verse genres, in the hands of China's greatest poets, supplanted one another in popularity. The emphasis Levy accords the major genres of entertainment literature, drama and the novel, in his fourth and final chapter, is a refreshing acknowledgement of the importance of these forms over the past seven or eight centuries. This emphasis also serves to illustrate the breadth of Chinese literature, tracing the origins of the novel, for example, to its semi-oral predecessors, or exploring the popular origins of various lyric forms. Although the book presumes a basic knowledge of literature as well as literary studies and does not avoid obvious comparisons with Western writers or literary works, in scope, size, and analysis, it provides an ideal introduction to the three millennia of traditional Chinese literature.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (1 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253336562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253336569
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,957,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"What Cristiana Bastos does well is analyse the inferiority complex of former colonial countries, where social elites look too much towards the models of the West instead of acknowledging that local solutions often work best."--TLS, September 28, 2001

About the Author

Andre Levy is Emeritus Professor at the University of Bordeaux. William H. Nienhauser, Jr., is Halls-Bascom Professor of Classical Chinese Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Ancient literature, recorded by the scribes of a rapidly evolving warlike and aristocratic society, has been carefully preserved since earliest times and has become the basis of Chinese lettered culture. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief but informative 2 Mar 2010
First of all, be warned, this is a pretty short book. In my naivite I though that the price would translate into quantity.

Instead, I got quality. This is a very useful and informative account, spanning what could be considered 'ancient' Chinese literature. It is seperated into sections on "the Classics", "Prose", "Poetry" and "Drama/Novels". Although perhaps aimed at students already knowledgable about the fundamental texts in Chinese literature, I approached it as a complete notice. As such it was a good introduction, giving a flavour of an essentially inaccesable literature, and certainly little known. I may have missed out on some of the sophistication that the comments on the back imply Andre Levy brought to organisation.

What I can say is that the quotations were neither too long nor irrelevant, but apt at bringing out the quality Levy wanted to express. Indeed, the book could be considered a 'tour' of many Chinese writers, with myriad themes being skillfully connected.

Once having read the book, you will be able to more informitavely decide where else in Ancient/Classical Chinese literature you want to explore, or be pleased in attempting to get a flavour of a very foreign literary tradition.
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