Jack W. Chen, “The Poetics of Sovereignty: On Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty”
Summary: After coming to power in a series of violent and deceptive acts, including tricking his father into cuckolding the Emperor, Li Shimin went on to become a ruler whose reign as Emperor Taizong has been hailed as a model of good government throughout East Asia. Jack W. Chen’s recent book explores the ways that Taizong shaped the representations and meanings of his empire by shaping the literary representations of power as he and others embodied it. The Poetics of Sovereignty: On Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty (Harvard Yenching Institute, 2010) is a journey through those articulations of sovereignty in the course of a masterful analysis of the literary world of early medieval China. Several fascinating themes run through this highly transdisciplinary work, which contributes meaningfully to larger histories of corporeality and the body, of historiographical practice, of experiences and articulations of space and movement, and of the historical ethics and rituals of rulership. It is a treat for the scholar of literature and the historian alike.