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Title: The literary Chinese cosmopolis
Author: Wei, Xin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6494 4385
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The thesis is set against the backdrop of literary Chinese as the cosmopolitan written language across East Asia and examines two contemporary literary Chinese writers in the ninth century: Ch'oe Ch'iwǒn from Silla Korea and Sugawara no Michizane from Heian Japan. Though composition in Chinese characters on the peninsula and the archipelago was ancient, a high-water mark within this community appeared in the ninth century. At that time, literary Chinese was embraced by mainstream literati as the medium for poetry and prose, and competent composition in this international written language came to have political as well as cultural significance. The importance of Ch'oe Ch'iwǒn and Sugawara no Michizane as the great masters of Chinese letters in Korea and Japan derives in part from their talents and in part from the social and political acceptance of Chinese. This comparative research primarily draws inspiration from Sheldon Pollock's comparison of the Sanskrit cosmopolis and the Latin cosmopolis. Pollock describes the Latin cosmopolis as coercive and the Sanskrit cosmopolis as voluntaristic. I argue that the history of literary Chinese in East Asia provides a third cosmo-political model for the history of interactions among language, literature, and cultural and military power. The literary Chinese cosmopolis can be characterized not as coercive or voluntaristic but as hegemonic. I compare Ch'oe Ch'iwǒn and Sugawara no Michizane for their cosmopolitan identities, transnational experiences, and diglossic worlds. Though there is debate over the appropriateness of the terms "diglossia," "Chinese cosmopolis," and "Sinographic cosmopolis" to describe the world in which Ch'oe and Michizane lived, I argue in favor of "literary Chinese cosmopolis," because I pay attention to the common grammar, syntax, and other linguistic features one must bear in mind when composing in literary Chinese (as opposed to reading). Localism produced vernaculars, but the unity of the community was based on composition in a cosmopolitan language. That cosmopolitan language was literary Chinese, a hyperglossic language, a language that allowed universal communication in East Asia. Intersecting with various disciplines and bringing several critical fields into conversation, this work contests and refreshes a series of key issues at the heart of discussions on globalization, namely the intrinsic relationship between language and power. How does cultural power emerge from language? How does writing in a "foreign" script articulate ethnic, local identities? As a meditation on language politics, ethics, and the historical situation of an earlier cosmopolitan ecumene (ninth century CE), this work will, I hope, offer insights into the specificities and mechanisms of a past cosmopolitan era in East Asia, even as it establishes a broader historical and ethical context for contemporary debates on globalization.
Supervisor: Lewis, James Sponsor: Oxford-Wolfson-Marriott Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Pre-modern Korean Literature ; Silla Korea ; Inter-Asian studies ; Ch'oe Ch'iwon ; Sugawara no Michizane ; Heian Japan