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Stampton, Owen Michael (2023) A Study on Sino-Korean Poetry of the Early Twentieth Century. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The enlightenment era (1880s-1910) was an epoch of significant transformation as Chosŏn collided with a new world. As Korea began engaging globally, foreign publications and literary styles had great sway on the new-intellectual class of the time, giving birth to a new era of literary production. In print media, the new-intellectuals discussed reasons behind Chosŏn’s decline and in particular, they blamed a now aging Sinitic elite and their long overreliance on Chinese traditions. Literary Sinitic or hanmun was attacked as ‘worn out’ literature, unfit to truly express Korean thoughts, feelings and ideas for a new era. Instead, han’gŭl came to be celebrated – symbolic of ‘modernity,’ progress and a uniquely Korean national identity. Into the twentieth century, vernacular Korean would supposedly win the battle against hanmun, ushering forth a new literature in Korean, by Koreans, for all Koreans. Although literary Sinitic fell out of use around the turn of the twentieth century, the narrative that it quickly disappeared and was relegated to the annals of history is more complicated than literary history often summarizes. Examining newspapers and magazines from the early twentieth century, we see that Sino-Korean poetry or hansi not only continued on, but intriguingly, remained a popular genre. Exploring a wide variety of Sino-Korean poetry of the twentieth century, this work traces the developments of this ‘old’ genre, looking at how poets also used hansi as a tool for enlightenment. The genre rose to the challenge of a new age, exploring a variety of contemporary Korean issues through ‘Chinese’ language. With works exploring life as a student abroad, laments on imperial currents and celebrations of Korean landscapes in the era of survival of the fittest, hansi would continue as a genre of twentieth-century relevance. This research thus seeks to explore a variety of questions related to nationalism and canon formation, the problems that surround the modern/classical dichotomy and the definitions of ‘modern’ Korean literature.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Grace Koh and Ernest Caldwell
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2023 15:48
Funders: Other

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