Abstract

This article examines the panegyric across the literary traditions of West, South, and East Asia, concentrating on Arabo-Persian qaṣīda, the Sanskrit praśasti, and the Chinese fu. In radically different albeit analogous ways, these three genres elaborated a political aesthetics of literary form that corresponded to many key features of epideictic rhetoric. All three genres cultivated a metapoetics for praising rulers and patrons that bolstered poetry's political status. All three genres were additionally conditioned by the panegyric's characteristic indirection whereby the object of praise shifts in the course of the text's unfolding. In elucidating a differential politics of literary form, the essay aims to deepen the interface between poetics and power in premodern literary cultures and to stimulate the discipline of comparative literature to move beyond its reliance on more familiar European genres as normative modes of literary expression.

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