Li Shangyin : the poetry of allusion

Teresa Yee-Wah Yu
A major poet of the Tang period, Li Shangyin is highly regarded yet criticized because his work is densely allusive. Dazzling and rich in meaning, it is also difficult and obscure because of its pervasive allusiveness. Chapter I reviews critical opinion of Li's use of allusion. Many traditional critics see allusion as an ornamental rhetorical device and consider Li's profuse allusiveness an idiosyncrasy to be tolerated in an esteemed poet. Chapter II studies allusion broadly and precisely as a
more » ... and precisely as a literary concept: generally, allusion is a "connector" of texts, a link between a poet's work and his literary heritage; specifically, it is a linguistic device serving metaphorical functions. Allusion viewed as extended metaphor generates multiple meanings. An approach to reading allusion is here developed, to interpret allusive texts on literal, allegorical, and symbolic levels. The chapter concludes that it is a misconception to say that the heavy use of allusion necessarily leads to inferior poetry. Chapter III relates Li's allusions to major motifs in his work, finding that his historical and mythological allusions fall into clusters and patterns. The profusion of mythological allusions yields symbolic meanings, both in individual poems and in the larger context of his collected works. Examining Li's characteristic use of allusion, the chapter shows how it functions as a major stylistic signature and is the principal reason for the plurisignation and ambiguity in his poetry. Chapter IV interprets several typical poems by Li Shangyin in the context of the theoretical and historical framework of the foregoing chapters. It highlights some of the major functions of allusion in these poems. A positive response to the plurisignation of Li's allusive mode allows for an inclusive critical approach to diverse interpretations and discards those readings failing the standards of consistency, coherence, and completeness . Chapter V concludes that Li's presumed vice is his virtue: his allusive texture makes his work difficult [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0100506 fatcat:hyvg5r2hyjaifmvmu45q5vm2a4