Drifting Amidst Rivers and Lakes: Southern Song Poetry and the Project of Literary History


ACLS Fellowship Program


East Asian Languages and Literatures


As factional strife and military defeat drove the Song dynasty elite to seek secure epistemological and ontological foundations for its moral authority, China underwent an epistemic shift. Starting in 1100, the source of meaning in human action was redefined from an emergent order in the phenomenal realm to an order at once both fully within the self and outside the world of phenomenal transformation. The writing of poetry during this period provided an important forum for exploring the possibilities and problems in this rethinking of the meaning of experience. At first, major writers sought to shift meaning to a world of normative texts, then returned it to the world of objects, but by the dynasty’s end in 1280, saw it as a manner of revealing the self in accord with the new moral order.