THE ELITE VERNACULAR KOREAN CULTURE OF CHOSŎN (1392–1910): Indeterminacy, Hybridity, Strangeness

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Elite vernacular Korean culture constituted a domain of aesthetic and literary refinement and social prestige that was patronized by elite women and highly prized within these women’s families. By the late seventeenth century, the boundaries of the elite vernacular Korean canon circumscribed exquisite calligraphic training, epistolary conventions, and the circulation of so-called lineage novels (kamun sosŏl), which narrated the affective contradictions of domestic life. Configured around the ideal of domestic femininity, elite vernacular Korean culture was nevertheless an uneven domain, which included participants of varying skills and commitment. This chapter will highlight the hybridity of this discursive space by pursuing the manuscript history and textual analysis of The Remarkable Reunion of Jade Mandarin Ducks (Ogwŏn chaehap kiyŏn), a lineage novel that circulated in the household of Madame Chŏng of Onyang (1725–1799), who was married into the Tŏkch’ŏn branch of the Chŏnju Yi, known for their engagement with Wang Yangming’s (1472–1529) philosophy. Curiously, Jade Mandarin Ducks evinces the influence of the so-called cult of qing that swept the late imperial Chinese cultural production, foregrounding emotion as the site of authentic personhood and human relationships. The novel’s gender-bending logic illuminates the subversive edge of elite vernacular Korean literary space, and its manuscript history, which spans the royal palace, an elite household with a prominent tradition of female learning, and a more modest rural abode, highlights the different circulation circumstances of lineage novels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Korean Literature
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781000539578
ISBN (Print)9780367348496
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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