Mental space mapping in classical Chinese poetry

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Primary verbal composite modelling, as manifested in cognitive poetics, raises serious theoretical questions over the nature and function of the linguistic sign. This chapter attempts to assess Chinese poetics popularized by North American sinologists in the 1960s to 1980s, re-read the so-called ‘Old Style’ Chinese poetry produced before the sixth century, and, finally, investigate why classical poetry in general lacks figurative and imagistic intricacy, characteristic of highly conceit-laden Western poetry, e.g. in the metaphysical and modernistic traditions. Specifically, the essay analyzes the ways in which mental spaces in classical Chinese poetry are mapped and examines how vital relations, scales, force-dynamics, and image-schemata, are integrated or ‘blended’ in creating mediated poetic ‘space’. Through close readings of sample poems in terms of current Language and Space studies, the author argues that the commonly assumed iconicity in classical Chinese poetry should be more properly called poetic indexicality rather than iconicity.


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