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Kim, Miyoung (2019) Modernity in Korean Literature Based on the Study of Ch’unhyang- chŏn. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London. DOI:

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Modern Korean literature has been blighted by the notion of being ‘transplanted’ from Western literature. This research, however, asserts that modern Korean literature has maintained its own distinctive literary tradition. I first examine the concepts of Korean modern literature and novels in relation to the rise of Western novels, then argue that the concept of modern literature was incompatible with the Confucian state ideology of the Chosŏn Dynasty. This explains why the modern was delayed in Korean literature and shows this lag to be a deliberate choice by the state. This research investigates the modernity of Korean literature by examining the thematic and discursive aspects of Ch’unhyang-chŏn, the tale of Ch’unhyang. For the thematic aspects, nine editions are examined, implementing Jameson’s ideas on interpretation. Here it was found that an irreversible stream of modern thoughts flowed into Ch’unhyang narratives, strategically contesting conflicting ideas over time. For the discursive aspects, three works are analysed employing Kim Hŭngkyu’s theory of ‘scene maximisation’ and Western narratology. Here I found that p’ansori narrative demonstrates solid narrative structure, with skilful management of rhythm and time, well-controlled narratorhood, and effective usage of ‘showing’ as a narration method. I contend that these elements sufficiently demonstrate the strength of pre-modern narrative as a foundation for the modern novel. Finally, I argue that Ch’unhyang-chŏn, born before Hangŭl orthography existed, transcended the limits of the times, exhibiting vibrant colloquialism in the vernacular language. I contend that under such unfavourable circumstances, Ch’unhyang-chŏn developed its own form and content which demonstrates vivid modern traits. This research contributes to bridging the rupture between pre-modern and modern Korean literature by proving the sturdy modernity of the former, inherent in its themes and discourse, which played a key role in accommodating Western literature and alleviating the shockwaves of its introduction.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Grace Koh
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 11 May 2020 14:47

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