Rhetoric and the Discourses of Power in Court Culture

China, Europe, and Japan

David R. Knechtges and Eugene Vance

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  • Published: 2005
  • Subject Listing: Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 352 pp., 10 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Key imperial and royal courts - in Han, Tang, and Song dynasty China; medieval and renaissance Europe; and Heian and Muromachi Japan - are examined in this comparative and interdisciplinary volume as loci of power and as entities that establish, influence, or counter the norms of a larger society. Contributions by twelve scholars are organized into sections on the rhetoric of persuasion, taste, communication, gender, and natural nobility. Writing from the perspectives of literature, history, and philosophy, the authors examine the use and purpose of rhetoric in their respective areas.

In Rhetoric of Persuasion, we see that in both the third-century court of the last Han emperor and the fourteenth-century court of Edward II, rhetoric served to justify the deposition of a ruler and the establishment of a new regime. Rhetoric of Taste examines the court's influence on aesthetic values in China and Japan, specifically literary tastes in ninth-century China, the melding of literary and historical texts into a sort of national history in fifteenth-century Japan, and the embrace of literati painting innovations in twelfth-century China during a time when the literati themselves were out of favor. Rhetoric of Communication considers official communications to the throne in third-century China, the importance of secret communications in Charlemagne's court, and the implications of the use of classical Chinese in the Japanese court during the eighth and ninth centuries. Rhetoric of Gender offers the biography of a former Han emperor's favorite consort and studies the metaphorical possibilities of Tang palace plaints. Rhetoric of Natural Nobility focuses on Dante's efforts to confirm his nobility of soul as a poet, surmounting his non-noble ancestry, and the development of the texts that supported the political ideologies of the fifteenth-century Burgundian dukes Philip the Good and Charles the Bold.
David Knechtges is professor of Chinese literature and Eugene Vance is professor of French and Italian studies, both at the University of Washington. Other contributors are Robert Borgen (University of California, Davis), Steven D. Carter (University of California, Irvine), Robert Joe Cutter (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Paul Dutton (Simon Fraser University), Ronald Egan (University of California, Santa Barbara), Stephen Owen (Harvard University), Arjo Vanderjagt (University of Groningen), Kuo-ying Wang (National Taiwan University), Scott Waugh (University of California, Los Angeles), and Pauline Yu (University of California, Los Angeles).

"An excellent volume on an important but understudied topic. The research is original and the prose thoughtful and jargon-free."
-Martin Kern, Princeton University

"Nothing quite like this has been published before. The essays serve admirably to begin a discussion of 'court culture': What is it? How should it be defined? Who creates it and for whom?"
-Paul W. Kroll, University of Colorado

Introduction by David R. Knechtges
Part I. Rhetoric of Persuasion
1. The Rhetoric of Imperial Abdication and Accession in a Third-Century Chinese Court: The Case of Cao Pi's Accession as Emperor of the Wei Dynasty by David R. Knechtges
2. The Court, Politics, and Rhetoric in England, 1310-1330 by Scott L. Waugh
Part II. Rhetoric of Taste
3. Poems for the Emperor: Imperial Tastes in the Early Ninth Century by Pauline Wu
4. Claiming the Past for the Present: Ichijo Kaneyoshi and Tales of Ise by Steven D. Carter
5. The Emperor and the Ink Plum: Tracing a Lost Connection between Literati and Huizong's Court by Ronald Egan
Part III. Rhetoric of Communication
6. Personal Crisis and Communication in the Life of Cao Zhi by Robert Joe Cutter
7. Keeping Secrets in a Dark Age by Paul Edward Dutton
8. The Politics of Classical Chinese in the Early Japanese Court by Robert Borgen
Part IV. Rhetoric of Gender
9. One Sight: The Han shu Biography of Lady Li by Stephen Owen
10. Poetry of Palace Plaint of the Tang: Its Potential and Limitations by Kuo-ying Wang
Part V. Rhetoric of Natural Nobility
11. Dante in God's Court: The Paradise at the End of the Road by Eugene Vance
12. Practicing Nobility in Fifteenth-Century Burgundian Courtly Culture: Ideology and Politics by Arjo Vanderjagt

"Rhetoric and the Discourses of Power in Court Culture represents a significant achievement. All the essays contained in the volume are lucid and generally jargon-free. Students and scholars of rhetoric and related fields will find it engaging, thought-provoking, and rewarding."
-Rhetorical Review