Biographical rhetorics: narrative and power in Yuanshi biography

Humble, Geoffrey Frank (2018). Biographical rhetorics: narrative and power in Yuanshi biography. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The Yuanshi (Yuan History)- a Chinese-language account of Mongol rule in East Asia compiled in haste between 1368 and 1370-presents hundreds of liezhuan biographical narratives on imperial subjects. Vital primary sources for reconstructing Mongol and Chinese history, these are viewed as chaotic texts receiving limited rhetorical input Taking the 4 7 subjects of an influential fourteenth-century biographical collection as a sample, this study demonstrates the considerable rhetorical
fashioning undergone by some of these biographies, exposing narrative tools employed by the fourteenth-century Chinese historian-compiler. Starting from a case study on the biographies of Yelü Chucai (1189-1243), we identify three themes to the compilers' edits, which three thematic chapters follow across the sample texts. The first of these sees narrative scope narrowed, marginalizing non-'Chinese' elements of the imperium to impose a 'Yuan' shape on Mongol East Asia. The second
situates bureaucratic governing institutions as a moral good, imposing a negative positioning on rival
approaches. Finally, we demonstrate the characterization of the deserving populace as beneficiaries of moral rule. Though none of these themes emerge in full coherence across the work, the broad tendencies are clear, as is the all-embracing, shaping influence of the storytelling imperative toward vivid juxtaposition of ideal and deviant.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Other
Other Funders: Ministry of Education, Republic of China, Taiwan
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania


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