AAS Annual Meeting

Korea Session 688

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Session 688: Translating Romantic Love between Cultures, Traditions, and Languages in Korea

Organizer: Janet Y. Lee, Keimyung University, South Korea

Chair: Yoon Sun Yang, Boston University, USA

Discussants: Naoki Watanabe, Musashi University, Japan; Yoon Sun Yang, Boston University, USA

This panel explores how romantic love has been conceived and narrated in literary discourse in Korea. Our panelists will inquire into what Korean writers choose to portray in terms of love, emotion, and gender, and show how they struggled to seek cultural authenticity. The discussion of various sources of dissimilar cultures and periods will reveal the ways in which each writer of late Chosôn and early modern time has attempted the discursive change by interpreting, writing, and translating romantic love. The four papers on the panel present a comparative look at the construction and recognition of love discourse to see cultural shifts. Janet Lee explores the pathos of love in the expression of sangsa and shows how the canonical concepts of love and suffering were manipulated in 17th century stories by male writers at a time of historical turmoil. Yonsue Kim explores how Confucian orthodox and heterodox fiction interacted in the construction of chông (qing in Chinese) in the 18th century fiction. Focusing on the writer Yi Ok (1760-1814), Kim explores how Yi’s fiction as a cultural mediation finds a place for desire while negotiating with Confucian notions. Jooyeon Rhee examines how the cultural transfer affected the translation of love stories in colonial Korea. By tracing the shift from an original Japanese love tale to its new Korean version, Rhee seeks to show cultural divergences between Japan and Korea and highlight the differing demands of the new Korean readership. Sookja Cho looks at the consumption of a specific Chinese love story, the legend of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai in Korea and shows how a story can successfully take up residence in a different cultural environment while being modified and adapted to fill different cultural needs.

Sangsa: Forbidden Desire and Narcissistic Love
Janet Y. Lee, Keimyung University, South Korea

This presentation explores the language of romantic love in the discourse of late Chosôn Korea. In the rise of love tales in the 17th century, expressions of affection frequently engage with the term, "sangsa" (相思), which describes the state of missing or thinking of each other or another. I will examine how the references to "sangsa" in the Confucian classics were settled in Korean love tales and poems, and explore social and cultural position of male writers who reinterpreted and exploited it as a way to construct legitimate expressions of virtuous and romantic love. First, this paper will describe how the recurring appearance of "sangsa" serves to envision romantic love as an unattainable object and conceptualizes the experience of love as being defined by anguish and sorrow. Second, employing Jacques Lacan’s characterization of love as “mutual narcissism,” the examination of sangsa will show how male writers facing an identity crisis after two major foreign invasions engaged themselves with the pathos of "sangsa." It will lead to an argument that the language of "sangsa" not only conveys male anxiety and frustration as a desiring self but also develops into the expression of narcissistic love.

Cultural Mediation of Desire: An Epitome of Check and Balance in 18th Century Writing
Yeogeun Kim, Dartmouth College, USA

What did the cultural mediation of desire mean for Chosôn (1392-1910) literati in Neo-Confucian society? One way to engage this issue is to examine their use of the term chông, which can be roughly translated as feeling and emotion in English. I choose, however, to narrow it down to love between a man and a woman and look at the literati’s nuanced cultural and literary reactions to the ruling ideology and the philosophy of chông. When Chosôn literati desired to write about chông, they took up a subject matter—for example, the depiction of love between a man and a woman—to fulfill this desire, and considered which literary styles would fit this subject matter. However, ideological checks and balances from both internal and external sources come to work within the social order. While there may be individual desire, at the same time there are multilayered forces, coming from various areas, to check this desire. I want to look at this phenomenon through a Chosôn writer, Yi Ok (1760-1814) and his poems. Examination of the “Cultural Mediation of Desire” reveals particular complexities that Yi dealt with as a thinker and writer in a period of change. I aim to contrast of Yi’s stance as reflected in his literary manifesto and how he did, or didn’t, realize it in his writings.

Translating Love in the Age of Tragedy: A Korean Translation of Ozaki Kōyō’s Konjiki yasha (The Gold Demon)
Jooyeon Rhee, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

This paper investigates the ways in which The Gold Demon (1897-1903) was translated in Korean as Changhanmong (A Dream of Long Suffering, 1913). Generally categorized as a “domestic novel” (katei shōsetsu) in Japan, The Gold Demon deals with a young couple whose romantic relationship is challenged by capitalist forces at the turn of the twentieth century. It addresses a range of newly surfaced ideas such as free love, marriage by choice and self-advancement; all of which challenged and redefined the concept of individuality and one’s relationship with his/her family. The Korean translation of the novel, along with its stage adaptations (sinp’a), became popular both for their entertainment value as well as their social backgrounds, which anticipated certain “modern” ways of life. I aim to investigate how translation practices informed and were informed by particular socio-cultural conditions of the time by situating the original and the translation in a cross-cultural and comparative perspective. I examine specific places where the translator, Cho Chung-hwan, “domesticated” the original text, especially when dealing with the idea of love and marriage, by endorsing Christian beliefs and the aesthetic of han (grief and suffering).

“Butterfly Lovers” in Korea: From a Love Story to a Ritual Song
Sookja Cho, Arizona State University, USA

This paper traces the origins, dissemination, reception and cultural impact of the legend of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai in Korea. Though the legend of Liang-Zhu is a Chinese love story deeply indebted and intrinsic to Chinese culture, this paper shows how Liang-Zhu has successfully crossed cultural boundaries and taken up residence in a different cultural environment, where it has been modified and adapted to fill different cultural needs. By contrasting the main features of Korean and Chinese Liang-Zhu versions—including the employment of local narratives on unfulfilled desire, the realistic characterization of the male protagonist Liang Shanbo, and the connections to local religions—this paper argues that what has often been regarded simply as a tragic love story in China also serves as a ritual narrative in Korea. These differences grow from Korean reinterpretation and appropriation of the traditional story that takes on the literary tropes and cultural connotations of Korean audiences. Consequently, this study shows how a single story—one with a rich historical and cultural legacy and one still popular today—can serve as a living record of the cross-cultural experiences between the two countries.