Korean Literature 110. Literature and Literary Culture of Premodern/Traditional Korea

Prof. Si Nae Park

This undergraduate lecture course examines the literature and literary culture of pre-20th-century Korea. The course materials consist of a wide range of literary artifacts, some of the key scholarship for contextualization, and first-hand experiences with objects held by the Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Map Collections, and Harvard-Yenching Library. Through slow and deep reading, discussion, and diverse written assignments including creative writing, students are invited to deepen their understanding of not only pre-20th-century Korea itself but also pre-20th-century Korea within the larger context of East Asia and in the global context by exploring questions as follows: Who were writers in pre-twentieth century Korea, and what writing systems did they use? What inspired them and what were the ways in which they expressed their literary inspiration? How did social and aesthetic codes and practices and philosophical questions shape literary artifacts? What did literature, literary fame, and creativity/originality mean to them, and how does “literature then” correspond with and at the same time diverge from “literature now” for us in the 21st century? How did books circulate? What can the physical conditions of literary artifacts and pertinent material things tell us about the literature and society of pre-20th century Korea? How do we know what we know about pre-20th-century Korea’s literature and literary practices? Who generated English translations of premodern Korean literary artifacts, and how have motivations for English translation changed over time? How useful and limiting are national boundaries such as “Korea/Korean,” “Japan/Japanese,” and “China/Chinese” for the understanding of literary cultures in history? How are textual artifacts from pre-20th-century Korea being (re)invented in the name of cultural heritage and as resources for K-content? All readings are in English. No prior knowledge of the Korean language is expected. You will learn to taste the flavor of the texts in their original languages through translated texts. Graduate students may take this course for credit in consultation with the instructor in advance.

Course website