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East Asia by the Book! CEAS Author Talks: Yoon Sun Yang

East Asia by the Book! CEAS Author Talks: Yoon Sun Yang

East Asia by the Book! CEAS Author Talks featuring Yoon Sun Yang on "From Domestic Women to Sensitive Young Men: Translating the Individual in Early Colonial Korea."

Presented in partnership with the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies

At the Co-op

About the book: The notion of the individual was initially translated into Korean near the end of the nineteenth century and took root during the early years of Japanese colonial influence. Yoon Sun Yang argues that the first literary iterations of the Korean individual were prototypically female figures appearing in the early colonial domestic novel—a genre developed by reform-minded male writers—as schoolgirls, housewives, female ghosts, femmes fatales, and female same-sex partners. Such female figures have long been viewed as lacking in modernity because, unlike numerous male characters in Korean literature after the late 1910s, they did not assert their own modernity, or that of the nation, by exploring their interiority. Yang, however, shows that no reading of Korean modernity can ignore these figures, because the early colonial domestic novel cast them as individuals in terms of their usefulness or relevance to the nation, whether model citizens or iconoclasts. By including these earlier narratives within modern Korean literary history and positing that they too were engaged in the translation of individuality into Korean, Yang’s study not only disrupts the canonical account of a non-gendered, linear progress toward modern Korean selfhood but also expands our understanding of the role played by translation in Korea’s construction of modern gender roles.

About the author: Yoon Sun Yang, assistant professor of Korean and Comparative Literature at Boston University, received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2009. Her recent publications include "From Domestic Women to Sensitive Young Men: Translating the Individual in Early Colonial Korea" (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Asia Center, 2017), “Enlightened Daughter, Benighted Mother: Yi Injik’s ‘Tears of Blood’ and Early Twentieth Century Korean Domestic Fiction” (positions: asia critique 22 (1), Winter 2014), and “From Female Ghosts to Ghostly Womanhood: Mt. Ch’iak (1908-1911) and Birth of Modern Korean Fiction” (Comparative Literature Studies, 2014, Vol.51(4)). She serves as a consultant reader for "ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature." She is currently at work on three projects: "Routledge Handbook of Modern Korean Literature" (the general editor, under contract), an anthology of early colonial Korean short stories and essays published between 1907 and 1918, and a book-length study tentatively titled "Under the Medical Gaze: Gender, Illness, and Literature in Korea."

About the co-sponsor: The Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) and its three Committees - the Committee on Japanese Studies, the Committee on Chinese Studies, and the Committee on Korean Studies - work to enhance opportunities available to scholars both in the United States and abroad, and to foster communication and inter-disciplinary collaboration among the community of professors and students at the University of Chicago and throughout the wider East Asian Studies community.

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