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The Rhetoric of Legitimation: Prefaces to Women's Poetry Collections from the Song to the Ming

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This paper investigates the legitimation of women's literary culture in the late Ming by examining the rhetoric in male-authored prefaces to women's poetry collections produced from the Song to the Ming. It aims to show that the very strategy of associating women's poetry with the Shijing was not only a late imperial phenomenon as often assumed, but a general approach in Neo-Confucian scholarship beginning in the Northern Song. Furthermore, this article demonstrates that the late Ming preface-writers often associated folk songs and "licentious songs" (yin shi) with the Shijing to legitimize the unorthodox. It concludes that the anthologizing of women's poetry and the promotion of women's culture in the late Ming functioned more as opportunities or strategies for male literati to negotiate and sustain their unofficial power than as genuine efforts to construct a canon of women poets.

Affiliations: 1: McGill University


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