The Invention of "Japanese" Literature in Colonial Korea, or How Shame-less Literary Engagement Could be under Colonial Conditions

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Other title information: 文芸理論研究This is the full-paper version of the 338th Si-Mian Lecture delivered at ECNU on March 17,2017, which focuses on the "shameless" act of intellectual collaboration committed by Ch'oe Chaesŏ(崔載瑞), an eminent scholar of English literature and criticism as well as a prominent "pro-Japanese" intellectual in Colonial Korea, who encouraged Korean writers to contribute to Japanese "kokumin bungaku" [national literature] by writing in the Japanese language. Rather than simply denouncing him as a "shameless" traitor, however, the author of this article tries to salvage the potentially postcolonial problematics he has posed in his theoretical struggle as regards possible literary engagement under colonial conditions while, at the same time, critically analyzing how his universalistic, Order-obsessed Theory logically reaches the wrongheaded conclusion that "resistance" to the Imperial Order is futile whereas "assimilation" promises a fertile ground for colonial literature to survive and even thrive. In the course of analysis, particular attention is drawn to Ch'oe Chaesŏ's rather uncanny employment of Scottish analogy and T.S. Eliot's idea of "Tradition" in order to theoretically justify his call for necessary collaboration, so that it be suggested that this particular case of a failed colonial intellectual is not exceptional but indeed exemplary of the predicaments that intellectuals must face in their public life under colonial conditions(hence, by extension, Modernity in general). Finally, brief and scattered speculations are offered on the concepts of "shame of being human" and "gray zone"(Primo Levi) as fundamental to the human condition regulated by Empire/Modernity.


  • 文艺理论研究 = Theoretical Studies in Literature and Art

    文艺理论研究 = Theoretical Studies in Literature and Art 39(3), 108-129, 2017-05



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