In the light of Chinese prosody and various mutually illuminating major cases from the original English, Chinese, French, Japanese and German classical literary texts, the book explores the possibility of discovering “a road not taken” within the road well-trodden in literature. In an approach of “what Wittgenstein calls criss-crossing,” this monographic study, the first ever of this nature, as Roger T. Ames points out in the Foreword, also emphasizes a pivotal “recognition that these Chinese values [revealed in the book] are immediately relevant to the Western narrative as well”; the book demonstrates, in other words, how such a “criss-crossing” approach would be unequivocally possible as long as our critical attention be adequately turned to or pivoted upon the “trivial” matters, a posteriori, in accordance with the live syntactic-prosodic context, such as pauses, stresses, phonemes, function words, or the at once text-enlivened and text-enlivening ambiguity of “parts of speech,” which often vary or alter simultaneously according to and against any definitive definition or set category a priori. This issue pertains to any literary text across cultures because no literary text would ever be possible if it were not, for instance, literally enlivened by the otherwise overlooked “meaningless” function words or phonemes; the texts simultaneously also enliven these “meaningless” elements and often turn them surreptitiously into sometimes serendipitously meaningful and beautiful sea-change-effecting “les mots justes.” Through the immeasurable and yet often imperceptible influences of these exactly “right words,” our literary texts, such as a poem, could thus not simply “be” but subtly “mean” as if by mere means of its simple, rich, and naturally worded being, truly a special “word picture” of dasDing an sich. Describable metaphorically as “museum effect” and “symphonic tapestry,” a special synaesthetic impact could also likely result from such les-mots-justes-facilitated subtle and yet phenomenal sea changes in the texts.
Shudong Chen is professor of humanities at Johnson County Community College.
Foreword by Roger T. Ames
Part One: Content Words
Chapter 1: A Word that Makes a World of Difference
Chapter 2: “Le Mot Juste” and “Content Words”
Chapter 3: “Les Mots Justes” as Choices
Part Two: Function Words
Chapter 4: The Unheard Melodies of the Trivial
Chapter 5: Indispensability of Function Words as Life-Makers
Chapter 6: Serendipity of the Familiar
Chapter 7: Function words as “Les Mots Justes”
Chapter 8: “Museum Effect” as “Le Mot Juste” – Mediated “Symphonic Tapestry”
This is a fascinating journey search for le mot juste in a worded world, packed with sharp, rich, interdisciplinary, cross-cultural insights into eye-catching, ear-enamoring, and soul-nourishing Chinese poetry and comparative prosody.
This book integrates the studies of prosody, literature and philosophy, revealing Chen’s deep understanding of Western philosophy and Chinese classics. From a linguistic point of view, especially a prosodic one, the book studies Chinese poetic literature with a comparative view of Western poetic literature, exhibiting multidimensional perspectives with cutting-edge discussions of intimate interactions of sound, thought and literary diction. Chen has brought fresh air to literary studies and new insights to modern linguistics with this book.