Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea

Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea

Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea

Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea

Synopsis

Lady Hyegyong's memoirs, which recount the chilling murder of her husband by his father, form one of the best known and most popular classics of Korean literature. From 1795 until 1805 Lady Hyegyong composed this masterpiece, depicting a court life Shakespearean in its pathos, drama, and grandeur. Presented in its social, cultural, and historical contexts, this first complete English translation opens a door into a world teeming with conflicting passions, political intrigue, and the daily preoccupations of a deeply intelligent and articulate woman.
JaHyun Kim Haboush's accurate, fluid translation captures the intimate and expressive voice of this consummate storyteller. Reissued nearly twenty years after its initial publication with a new foreword by Dorothy Ko, "The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong" is a unique exploration of Korean selfhood and an extraordinary example of autobiography in the premodern era."

Excerpt

JaHyun Kim Haboush, who passed away on January 30, 2011, was an original. All of her work bears the unmistakable imprint of her temperament, intellectual habits, and vision, and this is especially true of The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng. One may even say that in more ways than one, Lady JaHyun was Lady Hyegyŏng.

Ja Haboush wrote against the grain of conventional Korean history, especially those views shaped by the modern nationalistic agenda, by being attentive to the place of women, the politics of language, the richness of vernacular narratives, the power of emotions, and the global context. Neither Korea nor history looked the same as a result.

Above all, Ja Haboush is remembered as the visionary scholar who made female perspectives and diction mandatory for an understanding of the world of men. the four memoirs of Lady Hyegyŏng that this volume presents are but part of an array of writings produced by Chosŏn women that Haboush excavated to explain a paradox: “Precisely during the period when women, or yangban [elite] women, were losing their inheritance rights, they began to write in quantity.” Be it in the public genres of legal petitions and queen regents’ edicts or the more private, expressive genres of boudoir poetry and letters, women wrote in the vernacular Korean script. Conventional history has explained away this prolific output as a form of compensation: as the introduction of Confucian patriarchy from China disenfranchised Korean women, they found outlets in literature. But Ja Haboush, the first historian to study these vernacular writings as bona fide historical texts, is too skillful a reader to . . .

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