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The Novel in Transition: Gender and Literature in Early Colonial Korea

Front Cover of The Novel In Transition Book

Author: Jooyeon Rhee

Jooyeon Rhee provides an innovative and compelling analysis of gendered representations of nation and modernity in early twentieth-century Korean novels. By investigating the transformation of the novel genre in relation to transnational literary forces and print capitalism, this book illuminates the ways in which gender became an important epistemological ground on which writers and translators constructed their imaginations of Korean society and history under colonial rule. 

Having been marginalized from the literature-proper sphere of Confucian elite culture, the novel (sosŏl) began to transform significantly at turn of the twentieth century in Korea. Selected novels in transformation that Jooyeon Rhee investigates in this book include both translated and creative historical novels, domestic novels, and crime novels, all of which were produced under the spell of civilization and enlightenment. Rhee places the transformation of the novel in the complex nexus of civilization discourses, transnational literary forces, and modern print media to show how they became a driving force behind the development of modern Korean literature.

Gender is an analytical category central to this book since it became an important epistemological ground on which to define the Korean nation and modernity in literature at the time, and because the novel was one of the most effective technologies that mediated and populated knowledge about gender roles and relations. The masculine norms and principles articulated in novels, Rhee argues, are indicative of writers’ and translators’ negotiation with political and cultural forces of the time; their observations of the ambiguity of modernity manifest in the figure of mobile, motivated, and forward-looking woman and immobile, emotional, and suppressed men.



Additional Information



  • Book

  • Cornell East Asia Series

Publication Details

Publication Year: 2019

Publication Number: 196

ISBN: 978-1-939161-06-2