Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Music & Prosody in Late Imerial China

Music & Prosody in Late Imperial China Dissertation Reviews has posted Ling Xiaoqiao’s review of Casey Schoenberger’s dissertation, Resonant Readings: Musicality in Early Modern Chinese Adaptations of Traditional Poetic Forms. Here’s how it begins:

This ambitious study focuses on details of music and prosody in late imperial China qu performance, with a focus on famed playwrights and drama critics such as Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521–1593) and Wang Jide 王驥德 (?–1623). A few key concepts are central to this study. The first is resonance: drama critics like Wang Jide adapt song lyrics (ci 詞) as surfaces, or templates, in order to evoke, from both audience and reader, sensory impressions of the physical body and physicality of performers with different divides in social class. Late imperial Chinese plays were also designed to “resonate” with the many aural qualities inscribed in musical and prosodic information. In terms of audience anticipation, psychological qualia is a term useful for exploring how musical melodies and rhymes, as well as linguistic accents and tones, shaped the experience of poetry meant to be sung. Ultimately, the poetic and musical ornament and artistry developed by these musicologically adept poets and playwrights contributed to the late Ming cultural life what could be best characterized as a sense of hybridity: the surplus of material culture and concomitant anxiety over expressive authenticity point to a hybridized tradition holding multiple modalities in one.

Click the image above for the full review.