An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature: From Hyangga to P'ansori

An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature: From Hyangga to P'ansori

An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature: From Hyangga to P'ansori

An Introduction to Classical Korean Literature: From Hyangga to P'ansori

Synopsis

This comprehensive volume introduces the English-speaking student and general reader to the most important and representative works and genres of classical Korean literature.

Excerpt

My study of classical Korean literature has been part of an effort to discover the sources of my own being. Not knowing classical Korean literature, I felt excluded from the soil in which I ought to have rooted my intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual being. Whatever other literatures I studied, I felt that I would better understand them once I understood my own cultural roots. And so began an exploration of classical Korean literature that has lasted for nearly ten years, a step-by-step journey on which one discovery has led to another and yet another.

Thus my encounter with the enigmatic, enchanting hyangga, the earliest surviving vernacular Korean poetry, led me to the incomparable lyric songs of the Koryŏ kayo, the earliest poetry recorded in the Korean script. Similarly, when I set about writing on the works of Chosŏn women writers, I had planned one brief essay, mainly about Hanjung nok, the memoirs of Lady Hong, and the shijo written by kisaeng poets. But as I discovered the poetry of Hŏ Nansŏrhŏn and the kyubang kasa, the unpublished poetry of yangban women, one essay grew into two and then three. And as I completed the third essay I came to see I had only scratched the surface of my subject; there was so much more literature by Chosŏn women writers to be studied and discussed. I believe the same is true of every subject I have explored in this volume.

From the beginning, therefore, this study has been a personal undertaking. More than anything else, it is a report on my reading of those works of classical Korean literature I came to love. Naturally I wanted to share with others what I had come to appreciate . . .

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