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Women Pre-scripted

Women Pre-scripted: Forging Modern Roles through Korean Print

Ji-Eun Lee
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 216
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    Women Pre-scripted
    Book Description:

    Women Pre-Scriptedexplores the way ideas about women and their social roles changed during Korea's transformation into a modern society. Drawing on a wide range of materials published in periodicals-ideological debates, cartoons, literary works, cover illustrations, letters, and confessions-the author shows how at different times between 1896 and 1934, the idea of modern womanhood transforms from virgin savior to mother of the nation to manager of modern family life and, finally, to an embodiment of the capitalist West, fully armed with sexuality and glamour.

    Each chapter examines representative periodicals to explore how their content on a range of women's issues helped formulate and prescribe women's roles, defining what would later become appropriate knowledge for women in the new modern context. Lee shows how in various ways this prescribing was gendered, how it would sometimes promote the "modern" and at other times critique it. She offers a close look at primary sources not previously introduced in English, exploring the subject and genre of each work, the script used, and the way it categorized or defined a given women's issue. By identifying and dissecting the various agendas and agents behind the scenes, she is able to shed light on the complex and changing relationship between domesticity, gender, and modernity during Korea's transition to a modern state and its colonial occupation.

    Women Pre-Scriptedcontributes to the swell of research on Asian women in recent years and expands our picture of a complex period. It will be of interest to scholars of Korean literature and history, East Asian literature, and others interested in women and gender within the context of colonial modernity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5386-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Note to the Reader
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Na Hye-sŏk’s landmark 1917 short story, “Kyŏng-hŭi,” shows modern woman’s arrival in Korea.¹ Kyŏng-hŭi is a Korean student studying in Japan who is visiting home during her summer break, and in this portrayal of a day in her home life, she diligently carries on various tasks in and around the house. She does the usual house hold chores—laundry, sewing, and organizing and cleaning out the attic. How she does them, however, is what sets her apart from the usual: knowledge acquired through school subjects such as the arts, hygiene, music, and home economics is put into use as organizational...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Women in Book Culture
    (pp. 16-35)

    TheStory of Unyŏng(Unyŏng chŏn,seventeenth century), one of the most widely read fictional works from the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910), features a love affair between Unyŏng, a palace woman talented in poetry and trained in literature, and Kim, ayangbanscholar. As Michael Pettid notes in his study and translation of the novel, this premise is implausible, because a palace woman was prohibited from having such an affair. Pettid further observes that because the duties of palace women consisted mainly of house keeping and service, these women were hardly groomed as intellectual partners to royals or the king.¹...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Conceiving Women’s Issues: Tongnip sinmun (1896–1899)
    (pp. 36-57)

    Tears of Blood(Hyŏl ŭi nu,Yi In-jik, 1906), one of the most famous works of the New Novel (sin sosŏl) genre, begins with a scene from the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) in which Madame Kim looks for her seven-year-old daughter Ongnyŏn. Missing since a chaotic evacuation from the city of P’yŏngyang, Ongnyŏn is saved from the perils of war by a Japanese soldier, who adopts her and sends her to Japan. Over the next ten years she finishes elementary education in Japan, endures the passing of her adoptive father, is deserted by her adoptive mother, and then goes on...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Project Woman, Destination Home
    (pp. 58-81)

    Surrounded by competing empires and facing the inevitable momentum of modernity, social commentators in turn-of-the-century Korea, both men and women, presented nothing close to a coherent, systematic vision for how to be and what to become in a new nation. Role models were plucked from diverse places in the world and from various points in history. Scores of imported histories and biographies were translated and fictionalized, created and re-created in conjunction with the Patriotic Enlightenment movement (Aeguk kyemong undong). Especially during 1905–1910—when Korea had become a semi-colonial state under the Protectorate Treaty of 1905, but was not yet...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR By Woman’s Hand: Sinyŏja (1920)
    (pp. 82-102)

    Two cartoons by Na Hye-sŏk illustrate the modern Korean woman in two separate settings, one on the street (Fig. 4.1) and the other at home (Fig. 4.2). The first shows a Korean woman walking down the street with a violin case in hand. The impact of modernity is evident in the Western-style architecture shown in the background. Among the spectators are two men in traditional hanbok and top hat (gat) who point fingers at the woman, as well as a young man in Western attire at the left-hand corner. The two traditional men are aghast: “What is that?” “The trendy...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Colony, Modernity, and Sinyŏsŏng (1923–1934)
    (pp. 103-128)

    Thus wrote Kim Tong-in in the postscript to a reprint of his novellaBiography of Kim Yŏn-sil(Kim Yŏn-sil chŏn). First published in the literary magazineMunjangin 1941, the work was reprinted in 1946 with two other stories by Kim as a single volume, and his tone of voice exudes the excitement of publishing his works yet again in postcolonial liberated Korea. It is perhaps this historical momentum that inspired Kim to relate theBiographyto the nation’s history and to declare the life of the fallen female pioneer featured in the story a “a fair sacrifice” to the...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 129-136)

    Although real possibilities for reimagining women in early modern Korea were always limited, one also must not overestimate the significance of modest literacy rates and the eventual “disappearance of New Woman” in colonial Korea. As the preceding chapters have shown, it was not the size, duration, visibility, or achievements of either the New Woman phenomenon during the colonial period or of the broader development of discourse on women in Korea that mattered most. Quantitative measures, though tempting for the clarity they conjure, can become particularly tenuous where the identities presumed by measuring are themselves being debated and reshaped. Although this...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 137-160)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-176)
  14. Index
    (pp. 177-182)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-189)