The Much-Maligned Panegyric: Toward a Political Poetics of Premodern Literary Form
“The Much-Maligned Panegyric: Toward a Political Poetics of Premodern Literary Form,” Comparative Literature Studies 52.2 (2015): 254-288.
36 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2015 Last revised: 5 Dec 2015
Date Written: August 7, 2015
This article examines the panegyric across the literary traditions of West, South, and East Asia, concentrating on Arabo-Persian qaṣīda, the Sanskrit praśasti, and the Chinese fu. In radically different albeit analogous ways, each genre elaborated a political aesthetics of literary form. The West, South, and East Asian genres each cultivated a metapoetics for praising rulers and patrons that bolstered poetry’s political status. All three genres were additionally conditioned by the panegyric’s characteristic indirection whereby the object of praise shifts in the course of the text’s unfolding. In elucidating a differential politics of literary form, the essay deepens the interface between poetics and power in premodern literary cultures and calls on the discipline of comparative literature to move beyond its reliance on more familiar European genres as normative modes of literary expression.
Keywords: poetics, comparison, literary form, politics, premodernity
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