Bridges of Meaning

Establishing Cross-Referential Patterns through Parallelism in Premodern Chinese Prose Texts
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room D

  • Matthias Richter, Chair
  • Lisa Indraccolo, “Two Handles to Rule Them All—A structural analysis of Hánfēizǐ ‘Èr bǐng’ 韓非子 · 二柄”
  • Wolfgang Behr, “Plus c’est la même chose, plus ça changeTraces of morphological parallelism in pre-Qin prose”
  • Joachim Gentz, “Creating complex lines of conceptual argumentation through parallelisms in the Xunzi and the Zhuangzi”
  • Valérie Lavoix, “Carving argumentation in paired dragons: representations and effects of parallelism in the Wénxīn diāolóng 文心雕龍 (ca 500 AD)”

“Parallelismus membrorum”, a term coined by Lowth (1778), has long been acknowledged as a pervasive feature of Classical Chinese literature (Gentz 2007), which is widely employed in different genres across the ages beyond the rich landscape of poetry. Its use is especially prominent in Chinese “Kunstprosa” (Behr & Gentz 2005) and post-Qin “parallel prose” (piántǐwén 駢體文). Parallelism in Classical Chinese poetry has been extensively studied, while less attention has been paid to its role in prose texts or to its description in indigenous meta-discourses so far. Like in many other literary traditions, patterns of phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic, or higher textual levels of recurrence, structural parallelism can be harnessed “strategically” to enhance argumentative force (Meyer 2011). In particular, parallelism assumes two closely interconnected functions: (a) it organises arguments following a deliberate conceptual design, according to specific internal organizational principles; (b) it establishes meaningful inter- and intra-textual cross-references within different sections of a text, or across chapters of a more extensive work, operating via a combination of cognitive facilitation, expectation subversion and emotional intensification (Menninghaus et al. 2017). The proposed panel, chaired by Matthias Richter (University of Colorado, Boulder), studies different types of parallelism (semantic, grammatical, phonological) through the analysis of pertinent case-studies drawn from different kinds of Early and Medieval Chinese prose texts. It aims at providing new insights into the study of different forms of parallelism in premodern Chinese literature, promoting an integrated reading of classical texts that takes both their structure and content into consideration.

Lisa Indraccolo, “Two Handles to Rule Them AllA structural analysis of Hánfēizǐ Èr bǐng 韓非子 · 二柄”

The “two handles” (èr bǐng 二柄)–‘punishments’ (刑 xíng) and ‘rewards’ (德 ), are one of the core concepts and main government techniques of legalistic thought. They are explicitly acknowledged as the primary “tools” through which the ruler leads and controls his ministers (Pines, Goldin & Kern 2015). Through the promotion of law-abiding, obedient subordinates and the implacable punishment and purge of the neglectful, insubordinate ones, the ruler strengthens his grip on his entourage, thereby ensuring that the state is orderly run (Witzel 2012). The employment of such technique is discussed in detail in the corresponding chapter of the Hánfēizǐ 韓非子 (Graziani 2015). This deceptively simple, short chapter is actually a carefully constructed piece, both from the rhetorical and structural point of view, two aspects that are closely intertwined in early Chinese literature (Behr & Gentz 2005; Gentz & Meyer 2015). This paper studies the internal structure and the organization of arguments in the chapter ‘Èr bǐng’, with particular attention paid to the “strategic” use of parallelism and other rhetorical and literary devices, such as transition terms and historical examples. The aim is to show how such structural and rhetorical elements not only harmoniously complement each other but are also a constitutive component of the text that cannot be overlooked without comprising its hermeneutics, as they are deliberately distributed and arranged so as to support the development of the argument, enhancing argumentative force and highlighting and drawing attention to the most critical issues at stake.

Wolfgang Behr, “Plus c’est la même chose, plus ça changeTraces of morphological parallelism in pre-Qin prose”

Rhetorical properties of equivalence relations between sounds, sentence positions and lexical semantics in Chinese prose have been widely commented upon, aesthetically evaluated and didactically proscribed since the Han period (Yú Jǐngxiáng 2002, Shigehara 2014). The European study of Biblical Hebrew parallelism started with de Rossi (c. 1511–1578), received its canonical “tripartite” formulation by Lowth (1753, 1778) and is compared to Tang poetry in Davis (1830). Morphological parallelism, however, has remained largely unexplored since Schlegel’s “La loi” of 1896. This seems odd, considering the importance assigned to morphosyntactic parallelism and its “stereoscopic” effects in Chinese (Boodberg 1954) from Jakobson (1960, 1966) up to their recent rediscoveries as neural substrates in “empirical aesthetics” of European literature (Menninghaus’ group 2014–, It is due to the failure of sinologists, in and outside China, to recognize that Old Chinese, like other Trans-Himalayan languages, shows vestiges of derivational morphology. Like any other linguistic form, morphology is imbued with rhetorical force when sign-sign parallelisms are projected onto sign-meaning relationships. I will explore phenomena where iteration of affixal morphology in six-vowel systems of Old Chinese (Sagart 1999, Jin Lixin 2006, Schuessler 2007, Baxter & Sagart 2014) structures arguments and constructs intra-textual coherence in Warring States texts, aiming to show (a) how morphological parallelisms intersect with devices such as paronomasia, figura etymologica and constituent iconicity on a formal level and (b) how they promote different types of semantic oppositions (Chmielewski 1964), arguments (Gentz 2007) and textual structures (Spirin 1969, 1976).

Joachim Gentz, “Creating Complex Lines Of Conceptual Argumentation Through Parallelisms In The Xunzi And The Zhuangzi

While Chinese and Japanese scholars such as Liu Xie 劉勰 (465–522 CE) and Kūkai 空海 (774–835) have started to classify up to 29 different forms of parallelisms in Chinese texts 1500 years ago, European studies on parallelism and its different forms only started in the 18th century. And while Europeans have been aware of parallelism in (especially poetic) Chinese texts at least since 1830, little attention has been paid to the argumentative function of parallelisms in Chinese prose. In a short introduction, this paper will first point out a few stages of the early history of argumentative parallelism in Chinese texts starting from the formulaic rhetoric of contrasts in early Shangshu and Shijing texts, proceeding to discuss parallelisms as descriptive indicators of orders of classification in texts arranged according to catalogues such as the Hongfan chapter, numerous chapters in the Yi Zhoushu, the Xici zhuan as well as some excavated texts and finally looking at further developments of parallelist argumentation in the Masters’ literature. The main analytical focus of the paper will be devoted to the texts in the Zhuangzi and the Xunzi that start to play with the parallel form to create new and more sophisticated forms of argumentation. Among these, I will be particularly interested in the way parallelisms are used in both texts to introduce and define new conceptual terms in lines of argumentations and thereby serve to build up and structure arguments by means of complex analytical terminology.

Valérie Lavoix, “Carving argumentation in paired dragons: representations and effects of parallelism in the Wénxīn diāolóng 文心雕龍 (ca 500 AD)”

As a book-length masterpiece of parallel prose (piántǐwén 駢體文) composed in the times of its full blossoming, by a literary critic advocating for literary talent to be a major criterion in the course of official carriers, the Wénxīn diāolóng 文心雕龍 (Dragon carvings on the core of literature, ca. 500 AD) may stand as a rare instance of integrated theory and practice. One of its fifty chapters being devoted to “Parallel phrasing” (Lìcí 麗辭 XXXV), distinguishes sponte sua, a fortiori and appropriate though occasional instances of pairing and parallelism in early texts, before defining the rise of (artistic) parallel phrasing under the Han in terms of “intensified ornamentation” and “distinguished euphony”. Liú Xié’s 劉勰 (ca 465–521) rather straightforward taxonomy of parallelisms emphasises referential types (be they contrastive or converging). To which extent and profit may his normative views be confronted to his own practice throughout the Wénxīn diāolóng? My paper will propose limited and tentative answers to this self-imposing question and will argue that, far from being reducible to a “discourse machine” leading to inconsistencies (Owen, 2001), the effects generated by textual structures—alternation between parallel and separate phrases, parallel variations in enumerative catalogues, taxonomies or hierarchies—do enhance the internal and implicit logics of Liú Xié’s argumentative and demonstrative discourse, which actually lie between its very lines and inter-textual references.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room D
Establishing Cross-referential Patterns through Parallelism in Premodern Chinese Prose Texts