“What Is Korean Literature?”

“What Is Korean Literature?”

Bruce Fulton - Associate Professor of Asian Studies & Young-Bin Min Chair in Korean Literature and Literary Translation, University of British Columbia

Wednesday, October 9, 2019 - 1:00pm to 2:30pm
Room 207, East Asia Library, SML See map
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

At a time when Korean Studies scholarship seems intent on “interrogating,” “contesting,” “asserting,” and “problematizing,” it has become all too easy to lose sight of the millennia-old Korean literary tradition and its potential for continuing to inform Korean cultural expression in the new millennium. In this presentation I wish to emphasize the powers of endurance of a literary tradition that is equal parts oral, local, lyric, and performative on the one hand, and recorded (primarily in Chinese until the modern era), cosmopolitan, and conceptual on the other. The Korean literary tradition has always been distinctly intertextual, and in the new millennium it is increasingly intermedial as well. “Kashiri” (Will You Go?), for example, a song that dates back to the Koryŏ period (935-1392), is the prototype for modern Korea’s best-loved poem, “Chindallae kkot” (1922, Azaleas) and by now appears in no less than 50 Korean popular song incarnations. Scholars may differ in their understanding of what constitutes Korean literature, but most would agree that the Korean literary tradition is by virtue of its dual origins in oral and recorded literature uniquely positioned to open a window onto Korean culture, thought, spirituality, and history.

Bruce Fulton is a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Korea and the inaugural holder of the Young-Bin Min Chair in Korean Literature and Literary Translation, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia. He is co-editor of Modern Korean Fiction (Columbia University Press); co-recipient of the first National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship for a Korean literary work; and the recipient of a 2018 Manhae Grand Prize in Literature. His most recent translations, with Ju-Chan Fulton, are the graphic novel Moss by Yoon Taeho (serialized at the Huffington Post), Sunset: A Ch’ae Manshik Reader (Columbia University Press), and Mina by Kim Sagwa (Two Lines Press).