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Lyric Poem as Representation: From Plato to the New Criticism

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This essay treats the understanding of poetry, especially lyric poetry, as representation. The theme is developed partly as a historical survey, from the Classical Age to Romanticism and to Modernism, and through the history of aesthetics in Western terms. It offers critical scrutiny with the intention to explore a more justifiable theory of representation. Hopefully it may help to understand lyric poetry in historical contexts from Plato and Aristotle’s imitation theories, to Beardsley’s theory of illocutionary action and New Criticism. It is the image in lyric poetry that accounts for human action’s being represented. Poetic beauty is an illusionary reality, as that in painting, and the role of image has been widely appreciated in producing this beauty as verbal icon. Finally, I mention the connection between Western theorizing of poetry as representation and Chinese poetry and poetics in general. We see the possibility that the importance of lyric poetry as representation can encourage comparative literature and world literature, and a general theory of representation. These might be informative in Chinese literary studies, from a theoretical point of view.


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