The Observable Mundane: The Reception of Chinese Vernacular Narrative in Korea and Japan

The Observable Mundane: The Reception of Chinese Vernacular Narrative in Korea and Japan

Emanuel Pastreich - Director of The Asia Institute; Associate Professor of Humanities, Humanitas College at Kyung Hee University

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Room 312, Hall of Graduate Studies (HGS) See map
320 York Street
New Haven, CT 6511

This talk covers the remarkable impact of Chinese vernacular narratives on literary practice in Korea and Japan (17th-19th centuries). Chinese vernacular had a unique role in Korea and Japan as a language that partook of the authority of the Chinese tradition, but that also described the most quotidian aspects of daily life and employed extremely vernacular expressions. For this reason, Chinese vernacular literature suggested to readers in Korea and Japan that vernacular narrative, not only Chinese, but also indigenous, could also be considered as literature and taken seriously as a means of expression for intellectuals. At the same time, a richer and more literary narrative tradition emerged in both Korea and Japan which was deeply influenced by Chinese vernacular narrative and would eventually serve as the basis for the narrative language of modern literature. Reception was quite different, however, between the two countries. In Korea, many of the vernacular narratives were circulated in vernacular translations transcribed by hand and circulated largely by women. In Japan, by contrast, there was a broad fascination with Chinese vernacular literature which inspired a radical revaluation of the Japanese canon itself. Chinese novels and their translated were translated and widely circulated. Emanuel Pastreich is professor at Humanitas College, the liberal arts program at Kyung Hee University. His current research is divided between his work on technology and its impact on society and the impact of the Chinese literary tradition in Korea and Japan. Pastreich founded the Asia Institute in 2007, a think tank that coordinates research between experts in Asia and the rest of the world on the intersection of technology, the environment and international relations. Programs run by The Asia Institute include: the Korea India Business and Technology Initiative (with the Indo-Korea Business and Policy Forum), the Biotechnology Initiative, the Nuclear Power Program, 3E (Environment, Energy, Economy) Program, the Asia Ecocity Coalition (with Ecocity Builders) and the Convergence Technology Program. He has written articles about the environment, technology, globalization, international relations and business in Asia for such journals as Japan Focus, Foreign Policy in Focus & the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. He has published four books: The Novels of Park Jiwon: Translation of Overlook Worlds (Seoul National University Press), The Observable Mundane: Vernacular Chinese and the Emergence of a Discourse on Popular Narrative in Edo Japan (Seoul National University Press) in English, Record of a Robinson Crusoe in Korea: Life is a Matter of Direction, not Speed (Nomad Books), and International Experts talk about Korea (Dasan Books) in Korean.

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China, Japan, Korea, Transregional