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Genre Networks and Empire

Genre Networks and Empire

Rhetoric in Early Imperial China

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Xiaoye You


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
232 pages, 6 x 9, 4 illustrations


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About the Book

A decolonial reading of Han Dynasty rhetoric reveals the logics and networks that governed early imperial China
In Genre Networks and Empire, Xiaoye You integrates a decolonial and transnational approach to construct a rhetorical history of early imperial China. You centers ancient Chinese rhetoric by focusing on how an imperial matrix of power was established in the Han Dynasty through genres of rhetoric and their embodied circulation, and through epistemic constructs such as the Way, heaven, ritual, and yin-yang.
Through the concept of genre networks, derived from both ancient Chinese and Western scholarship, You unlocks the mechanisms of early Chinese imperial bureaucracy and maps their far-reaching influence. He considers the communication of governance, political issues, court consultations, and the regulation of the inner quarters of empire. He closely reads debates among government officials, providing insight into their efforts to govern and legitimize the regime and their embodiment of different schools of thought. Genre Networks and Empire embraces a variety of rhetorical forms, from edicts, exam essays, and commentaries to instruction manuals and memorials. It captures a range of literary styles serving the rhetorical purposes of praise and criticism. In the context of court documentation, these genre networks reflect systems of words in motion, mediated governmental decisions and acts, and forms of governmental logic, strategy, and reason.
A committed work of decolonial scholarship, Genre Networks and Empire shows, through Chinese words and writing, how the ruling elites of Han China forged a linguistic matrix of power, a book that bears implications for studies of rhetoric and empire in general.


Xiaoye You is Liberal Arts Professor of English and Asian Studies at Penn State University and formerly Yunshan Chair Professor at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China. He has published extensively in comparative rhetoric, multilingual writing, and world Englishes and is the author of Cosmopolitan English and Transliteracy and Writing in the Devil’s Tongue: A History of English Composition in China, both published by Southern Illinois University Press.


“Adding ‘genre networks’ as a newly defined methodology in comparative rhetoric, this book fills a void in the study of Chinese rhetoric—imperial documents in the Han Dynasty. You articulates the meaning of his study and raises meaningful questions to advance comparative rhetoric, in general, and Chinese rhetoric, in particular.”—Hui Wu, translator of “Guiguzi,” China's First Treatise on Rhetoric: A Critical Translation and Commentary
“You’s book covers a range of official literary genres that are informed by different schools of thought and intertwined in the political discourse and argumentative practices of the Han dynasty in ancient China. His analyses of the selected texts are nuanced and eye-opening, shedding light on the studies of non-Western rhetoric.”—Xing Lu, author of Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric