Language of Emptiness: Wai-lim Yip's Daoist Project

Jonathan Stalling

in Poetics of Emptiness

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231447
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241835 | DOI:

Series: American Literatures Initiative

Language of Emptiness: Wai-lim Yip's Daoist Project

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This chapter begins by exploring an influential poetics of emptiness, drawn from a historically specific transpacific “Daoist” poetics. Yip postulates a transpacific imaginary in which Chinese poetry, infused with the Daoist worldview, allows (through linguistic wuwei) phenomena to represent itself “as it is” without distortion (ziran), and so can be adopted as a methodological solution to cross-cultural misinterpretation. This chapter explores Yip's use of translation to support his heterocultural vision, as well as the theoretical and poetic precedents for Yip's poetics in both Daoist and Western discourses. While shedding light on the central importance of Yip's work to the transpacific Daoist imaginary, this chapter also takes Yip to task for his transhistorical/cultural reading of Chinese poetry as an image-laden, syntax-free, in order to move beyond latent elements of cultural essentialism in Yip's work and to open pathways beyond the received tradition of “Daoism” in the West.

Keywords: emptiness; Daoist poetics; Chinese poetry; poetic precedents; Daoist worldview

Chapter.  12734 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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