The rhetorical strategy of travel narrative in Li Ruzhen's “Jinghua Yuan” and Herman Melville's “Mardi”

Tso-Wei Hsieh, Purdue University


This dissertation compares Herman Melville's Mardi with Li Ruzhen's Jinghua yuan in terms of travel narrative and its rhetorical strategies in representing otherness, including denigration, idealization, and eroticization. The use of these strategies has been informed by the respective tradition of travel writings or geographical works. Among these rhetorical representations, denigration construes the otherness as negative: barbarian, grotesque, or deformed. Idealization conversely envisions the otherness as an idealized state or people. As for the rhetoric of eroticization, it designates the otherness as sexualized object, mirroring the travelers' desires, fantasies, and the stereotypical notions of gendered difference. These strategies intersect and overlap, working as instruments to mark the cultural differences. Both writers, however, challenge the operation of these rhetorical strategies by reversing the self-other relations and conceiving otherness as part of constituted self. By adopting the perspective of the other, they explore the duality of the traveler who simultaneously plays the role of representing otherness and the role of being appropriated. But the strategies in Mardi and those in Jinghua yuan are different in terms of the style and the result: the former is characterized as de-centering expansion; the latter centralization. These two works, however, use different approaches in dealing with rhetorical strategies in the end. In Mardi , Taji seeks to dissociate himself with those expanding, recurrent designations deployed by colonial discourse so that he can pursue individual identity, which in turn symbolizes the establishment of American self as subversion of Western marginality. Li Ruzhen uses the travel of Tang Ao and Tang Guichen to bring back all displaced women and the loyalists who embody declining Confucian virtues to overturn Empress Wu's regime. This centralizing movement embodies the discourse of guanguang, which emphasizes a collective effort by the literati to reform Qing society. The cross-cultural comparison of Jinghua yuan and Mardi highlights different ways of envisioning what is center and stability for respective home culture during the first half of the nineteenth century.




Hsieh, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|American literature|Asian literature|Rhetoric|Composition

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