Journal Articles

June 2024 - Vol.54 / No.2
Sukyung Huh’s Global Blues: On Being a Naïve Reader
Author : Myles Chilton
Keywords : naïve reading, defamiliarization, disciplinary frameworks, incommensurability, literary value
Because I know very little about the late Korean poet Sukyung Huh or Korean literature, in my readings of the recent English translation of her Global Blues (2021) the teacher becomes a student. This is the first convergence; the second sees me searching for ways to make Huh’s poems converge in some way with my language and knowledge. Rather than dismiss this approach to poetry as unscholarly or naïve, I argue that this teacher-student convergence be embraced as a conscious enactment of tensions and potentials. It is a deliberate engagement with open-ended “bad” reading which seeks to (re)place literary scholarship, and scholars themselves, in the place of an untrained, “unlayered” reader. Understanding the position of future generations of students, who will be less and less inclined to struggle with the lexical and semantic complexities of poetry, or any literary form, is vitally important in the face of the precarity of literary studies, and of the declining cultural value accorded to literary reading, criticism, and education. This occasion of reading Huh’s poems thus means gauging how professionalized, disciplinary approaches can limit or even distort the reading subject, and the critical potential of inhabiting shifting scales of interpretation and knowledge opened up by translations faithful, loose, and deliberately incomplete.
A Cultural Politics of Honhyeol in South Korea: A Study of Two Different Narratives of Mixed-blood Children
Author : Yoo-Hyeok Lee
Keywords : honhyeol, Bildungsroman, The Elephant, Wandeugi, Korean damunhwa, hybridity
This paper examines the theme of honhyeol, or mixed blood, as one of the important interactions and convergences of different identities and cultures in South Korea in recent years. This type of mix of identities and cultures has a long history. Yet, it has often been completely marginalized and silenced, largely because it has been easily stigmatized as something impure and undesirable. Instead, purity of culture and identity has always been emphasized as something Korean people need to pursue and keep. This paper will deconstruct such discourses of purity of culture and identity, and more significantly, it will give particular attention to ways in which honhyeol can contribute to new forms of culture and identity. To do so, this paper will examine honhyeol children. Although these children often go through difficulties simply because they are mixed blood, a growing trend of the representation of such children in popular cultural media such as film, literature, and TV programs shows that there are encouraging aspects worth our attention in terms of how new forms of culture and identity can emerge. My analysis will be focused on the following two literary texts: The Elephant and Wandeugi. Historically, this trend of the noticeable emergence of children of mixed blood in South Korea goes back to the late 1980s or early 1990s in close relation to Korea’s entry into the global economy and foreigners’ movement into Korean society. In this regard, this study is my critical engagement with the growth of Korean multiculturalism. Not only will it examine cultural products reflecting the phenomenon of honhyeol to grasp some characteristics of such representation, it will also offer a theoretical perspective on possibilities and limits of honhyeol as a mode of an interaction and convergence of different identities and cultures. Analyzing those two novels of mixed-blood children from the perspective of the Bildungsroman as a genre of becoming will enable us to see how honhyeol children’s othered bodies can serve as contact zones that can possibly contribute to the emergence of new forms of hybrid culture in South Korea.
“The Knife of flint passes over the howling Victim”: Rethinking Sacrificial Violence in William Blake’s Jerusalem
Author : Kang-Po Chen
Keywords : William Blake, Jerusalem, human sacrifice, ritualistic violence, Georges Bataille, the sacred
In William Blake’s final epic Jerusalem, human sacrifice plays a significant role. Presented as a distortion of the Passion, its abolition functions pivotally in Blake’s Christian revisionism. Generally, critics interpret human sacrifice as a gruesome reification of religious falsehood, stagnant rationalism, sexual repression, social control and surveillance, and imperialistic atrocity. This article reconsiders the established interpretations by examining two specific episodes in Jerusalem: Los’s construction of Golgonooza, the City of Art, in Chapter 1 and Luvah’s torture in Chapter 3. I would argue that Blake’s overtly explicit, excessively detailed depiction of such violence goes beyond the representation of religious oppression and sexual repression as proposed in preceding studies. Blake’s unrestrained visualization of human sacrifice, “[g]lowing with beauty & cruelty,” insinuates a certain fixation on the body that outperforms his rightful assertion of Jesus’s self-annihilation and the spiritual completion it brings forth. In Chapter 1, the sacrifice motif has already permeated Los’s apparently righteous effort of artistic creation, attesting to Blake’s awareness of the intrinsic symbiosis between art and violence. And in Chapter 3, Blake’s versification of Luvah’s sacrifice disturbingly yet mesmerizingly obscures the boundaries between the self and the other and breaches the spirit-body dualism. Engaging with Georges Bataille’s conception of the sacred, I would propose that ritualistic violence and bodily consumption proffer an alternative route to Romantic artistic imagination, challenging the critical consensus that Blake leans towards the spiritual and renounces the corporeal in his late works.
Management and Care in a Victorian Community: The Community of Women in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Letters and Cranford
Author : Hong-Jin Lu
Keywords : Victorian era, community management, female community, Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford
In response to the disparity between the rich and the poor of Victorian Britain that worsened due to the laissez-faire economics of the time, numerous philosophers proposed ideology-based solutions to the plight of the poor. Anglican sisterhoods of unmarried women were formed to provide charity to individuals of the lower classes. In contrast to male philosophers who often spoke of the need for mutual care and improvement in communities under the aegis of patriarchal hegemony, Anglican women’s organizations, such as Priscilla Sellon’s Sisters of Mercy, provided charitable care in practices, as well as created a community in which unmarried women could establish an identity by participating in public affairs outside of the domestic sphere. The importance of these female sisterhoods is indicated in the letters and novels of Elizabeth Gaskell. In her letters, Gaskell indicates that she approves of Sellon’s community of single women where women are given the opportunity to assume a role other than that of the wife and mother expected in Victorian Britain. In addition, Gaskell’s Cranford presents the story of an Amazonian community under a system of female leadership and governance in which older women are empowered to manage community care. Cranford conveys Gaskell’s thoughts and concerns regarding female public identity through the problems and interactions of the women in Cranford in a time of economic transformation. The novel presents the strategies that women and men employ for community management, where management is initially patriarchal and eventually shifts toward a more gender fluid form in response to social change and as a means of solving the problems encountered by citizens of the town. At the beginning of the novel, when the community is run by Deborah Jenkyns, governance of the community is authoritarian and paternalistic. After Deborah dies, however, class and gender expectations begin to shift, and the community functions more like a cooperative. Through this transformation, Gaskell addresses the topics of gender identity, class ideology, and participation in community affairs.