Academic journal article The Comparatist

On Comparative Literature in Korea

Academic journal article The Comparatist

On Comparative Literature in Korea

Article excerpt

Regarding Comparative Literature in Korea, it would be best to say that it's still growing and gradually moving away from its dependence on foreign influence. The origin of Comparative Literature in Korea may be found in the reception of world literature--the majority of which was Western literature--in the fifties and sixties. World literature served to fill the cultural vacuum following the colonial period and the Korean War. At that time, two publishing houses created series of world classics, which consisted of more than a hundred works from the traditional world literary canon. The concept of Comparative Literature was introduced in the 1950s as a natural development of the increased availability of world (Western) literature.

Let me attempt to contextualize this process: Koreans take great pride in over 5,000 years of history and tradition. But they have also experienced a short painful tabula rasa through the rupture of tradition during the colonial and war periods. After the war, Korea grew rapidly in terms of economic development. Korean scholars endeavored to fill the spiritual vacuum left by its rapid economic growth. This movement sometimes brought about a hasty reception of Western culture.

The Korean Comparative Literature Association (KCLA), founded in 1959, currently has about 500 members. The association consists of scholars from diverse disciplines of national and foreign literature. Scholars of Korean, English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese literature all participate in the association. Comparative literature is practiced mainly by scholars who bring their expertise in national literatures to bear on their interest in Comparative Studies. Recently, there are more formally trained comparatists, many of whom studied Comparative Literature in Europe and in the United States.

The annual conferences of the KCLA take place twice a year, providing an opportunity for scholars from all over Korea to meet. The KCLA also produces a journal that is published three times a year. Its articles cover a wide variety of topics, including comparisons of national and foreign literary works, research on translated works, and comparisons between literary works and other art forms. …

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