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Books on Literature

A work-in-progress listing. Titles are sorted in date of publication in English translation, most recent first.

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The Korean Vernacular Story: Telling Tales of Contemporary Choson in Sinographic Writing
Park Sinae
Columbia University Press, 2020

As the political, economic, and cultural center of Choson Korea, eighteenth-century Seoul epitomized a society in flux: It was a bustling, worldly metropolis into which things and people from all over the country flowed. In this book, Si Nae Park examines how the culture of Choson Seoul gave rise to a new vernacular narrative form […] (Amazon link)

What Is Korean Literature?
Bruce Fulton, Youngmin Kwon
Univ of California Berkeley Institute of East Asian Studies, 2020

Professor Kwon and Professor Fulton outline the major developments, characteristics, genres, and figures of the Korean literary tradition for students encountering that tradition for the first time and also for those ready to critically engage with it. The volume includes examples, in English translation, of each of the genres and works by several of the […]

Tales of the Strange by a Korean Confucian Monk: Kŭmo sinhwa by Kim Sisŭp
Dennis Wuerthner, Kim Si-seup tr Dennis Wuerthner
University of Hawai'i Press, 2020

One of the most important and celebrated works of premodern Korean prose fiction, Kŭmo sinhwa (New Tales of the Golden Turtle) is a collection of five tales of the strange artfully written in literary Chinese by Kim Sisŭp (1435–1493). Kim was a major intellectual and poet of the early Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1897), and this book […] (Amazon link)

The Novel in Transition: Gender and Literature in Early Colonial Korea
Jooyeon Rhee
Cornell East Asia Series, 2019

Having been marginalized from the literature-proper sphere of Confucian elite culture, the novel 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 […] (Amazon link)

Invincible and Righteous Outlaw: The Korean Hero Hong Gildong in Literature, History, and Culture
Kang Minsoo
University of Hawai'i Press, 2018

One of the most important and popular premodern Korean novels, The Story of Hong Gildong is a fast-paced adventure story about the illegitimate son of a nobleman who becomes the leader of a band of honest outlaws who take from the rich and punish the corrupt. Despite the importance of the work to Korean culture […] (Amazon link)

Rewriting Revolution: Women, Sexuality, and Memory in North Korean Fiction
Immanuel Kim
University of Hawai'i Press, 2018

Publisher description: North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is firmly fixed in the Western imagination as a barbaric vestige of the Cold War, a “rogue” nation that refuses to abide by international norms. It is seen as belligerent and oppressive, a poor nation bent on depriving its citizens of their basic human […] (Amazon link)

The History of Korean Literature: From Ancient Times to the Late Nineteenth Century
Jung Byung-sul, Jung Min, Ko Mi-sook tr Kil Cha, Michael J Pettid
LTI Korea, 2016

An easy to read, extensive exploration of premodern Korean literature. The work covers the beginning of Korean literature until the end of the nineteenth century and would be ideal for students in Korean or Asian literature classes. (Link to eBook / PDF / online text)

Writers of the Winter Republic: Literature and Resistance in Park Chung Hee’s Korea
Youngju Ryu
University of Hawai'i Press, 2015

In 1975, a young high school teacher took the stage at a prayer meeting in a southwestern Korean city to recite a poem called The Winter Republic. The poem became an anthem against the military dictatorship of Park Chung Hee and his successors; the poet, however, soon found himself in court and then in prison […] (Amazon link)

Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier
Theodore Hughes
Columbia University Press, 2012

Publisher description: Korean writers and filmmakers crossed literary and visual cultures in multilayered ways under Japanese colonial rule (1910–1945). Taking advantage of new modes and media that emerged in the early twentieth century, these artists sought subtle strategies for representing the realities of colonialism and global modernity. Theodore Hughes begins by unpacking the relations among […] (Amazon link)

Reading North Korea: An Ethnological Inquiry
Sonia Ryang
Harvard, 2012

Often depicted as one of the world’s most strictly isolationist and relentlessly authoritarian regimes, North Korea has remained terra incognita to foreign researchers as a site for anthropological fieldwork. Given the difficulty of gaining access to the country and its people, is it possible to examine the cultural logic and social dynamics of the Democratic […] (Amazon link)

Exploring North Korean Arts
Ed Rüdiger Frank
Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2011

Publisher description: This book is a cooperation between the MAK and the University of Vienna and contains a number of in-depth essays by international writers on a wide spectrum of issues, and with much detailed background information. The relationship between art and ideology is examined, how modern and traditional values are dealt with, as well as […] (Amazon link)

Mujong (The Heartless): Yi Kwang-Su and Modern Literature
Yi Kwang-su tr Ann Sung-Hi Lee
Cornell East Asia Series, 2011

Yi Kwang-su (1892-1950) was one of the pioneers of modern Korean literature. When the serialization of Mujong (The Heartless) began in 1917, it was an immediate sensation, and it occupies a prominent place in the Korean literary canon. The Heartless is the story of a love triangle among three youths during the Japanese occupation. Yi […] (Amazon link)

My husband the poet
Mok Sun-ok tr Brother Anthony of Taizé
Seoul Selection, 2006

“wonderful translation . . . It’s the best book of prose I’ve read from Korea. nothing like it, nothing close.” (Professor David McCann, Harvard University) A deeply personal account of life as a poet’s wife is now available in English. Mok Sun-ok, poet Chon Sang-pyong’s wife of over 20 years, writes about her years with […] (Amazon link)

A History of Korean Literature
Ed Peter H Lee
Cambridge University Press, 2003

This comprehensive narrative history of Korean literature provides essential information for scholars and students as well as others. Combining history and criticism, the study reflects the latest scholarship and includes an account of the development of all genres. In 25 chapters, it covers twentieth-century poetry, fiction by women, and the literature of North Korea. It […] (Amazon link)

Trap of History: Understanding Korean Short Stories
Shin Jeong-hyun
Univ of California Berkeley Institute of East Asian Studies, 1998

Excerpt from Questia: Culture is an emblem of a people’s self-recognition in their own world and of their achievement of freedom in it. It is a people’s cumulative reception and negation of the world in their history — negation in the Hegelian sense, that is, the changing of the world in accord with one’s own […] (Amazon link)

Understanding Korean Literature
Kim Hunggyu tr Robert J Fouser
M.E. Sharpe, 1997

This study examines the development and characteristics of various historical and contemporary genres of Korean literature. It presents explanations on the development of Korean literacy and offers a history of literary criticism, traditional and modern, giving the discussion an historical context. (Amazon link) LKL Review

Han Sorya and North Korean Literature (+ Jackals)
Han Seol-ya tr Bran Myers
Cornell East Asia Series, 1994

This first and only study of North Korean literary history by a Western scholar deals with the crucial role played by Han Sōrya, chairman of the DPRK’s Federation of Literature and Art from 1948 to his purge in 1962, both in devising the iconography of Kim Il Sung’s personality cult and in defining the early […] (Amazon link)

The Korean Singer of Tales
Marshall R Pihl, Trad / anon tr Marshall R Pihl
Harvard, 1994

Publisher description: P’ansori, the traditional oral narrative of Korea, is sung by a highly trained soloist to the accompaniment of complex drumming. The singer both narrates the story and dramatizes all the characters, male and female. Performances require as long as six hours and make extraordinary vocal demands. In the first book-length treatment in English […] (Amazon link)