Modern Korean Literature: Searching for Identity at Home and in the World

If you only listen to one nearly two-hour podcast on Korean modern literature, it has to be this one by Ann Choi Wan (ALAS this podcast exists no longer).  Wan takes you from the start of modern literature (Yi Kwang-su, more or less, and she talks about his relationship with modernity and romance and how that doesn’t work out quite that way it does in the west) all the way up to the recent successes of post-modern Korean fiction. She covers all the authorial bases (it’s a good test of how much you actually know about the authors – can you ID 100% of who she mentions?^^), and for those commenters here who have been curious about why Korea literature (before this century) was so “national,” Wan has a brilliant analysis of the desire/need the literature had to be “authentic” (i.e. about the real ongoing, or recent, Korean experience).

She ends with an interesting and worrying point – that the new authors have left this authenticity and, to me at least, this might open the door for the kind of de-coupling of literature from reality that, in the west resulted in navel-gazing and destruction of literature by application of theory.

Lots to think about, AND you get to hear her catch a cold in real time.^^

The blurb says:


On February 17, 2011, The Korea Society’s Korea In-Depth Lecture Series hosted scholar Ann Choi Wan for a lecture entitled, “Modern Korean Literature: Searching for Identity at Home and in the World.” Wan contrasted the themes of romantic love and individualism in the first “modern” Korean novels with earlier genres, which were heavily influenced by Confucian values of social harmony. The 2011 Korea In-Depth Lecture Series by noted scholars of the history, politics, literature, art, and architecture of Korea is supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities.

But to me, the most interesting part is she moves past those initial points.

At any rate, give it a listen, it’s worth the time.

I posted about this earlier, but this time I’ve actually listened to it.^^

3 thoughts on “Modern Korean Literature: Searching for Identity at Home and in the World

  1. Charles (the other)

    LOL.. yeah.. the “spy vs spy” stories here are epic. The North Koreans came within several hundred meters of killing Park Chung-Hee during the Blue House Assassination attempt.

    An additional LOL that this did not come to war. But maybe not a war, because tho Park was certainly a dictator, he had an eye on a very clear view of the future he never blinked from, not even when his wife was killed.

    Weird, but perhaps necessary, dude.

    There is still a reticence, I think, to explore these topics, based on the desire for reunification and, peculiarly, not to piss off the North.

    I live here, but I can’t say I understand it all.

    Finally… nah.. the podcast is brilliant, but it is narrowly focused.

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