Epistolary Revolution in Chosŏn Korea
Hwisang Cho, Emory University
Moderated by Ksenia Chizhova, Princeton University
Friday, April 23, 2021
11AM – 12:30PM
Co-sponsored by Columbia University Seminar; the Academy of Korean Studies, Seoul, Korea, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University
While discussing his book The Power of the Brush: Epistolary Practices in Chosŏn Korea (University of Washington Press, 2020), Hwisang Cho will give a survey of the “epistolary revolution” that shaped Korean society from the sixteenth century to the end of the Chosŏn dynasty and beyond. By examining the physical peculiarities of new letter forms, the cooptation of letters for other purposes after their communicative functions, and the rise of diverse political epistolary genres, this talk will illuminate how innovation in epistolary practices allowed diverse writers to move beyond the limits imposed by the existing scholarly culture, gender norms, and political systems. While emphasizing how the epistolary revolution posed new challenges to traditional values and already-established institutions, it will demonstrate that new modes of reading and writing developed in the seemingly mundane and trivial practice of letter writing triggered a flourishing of Neo-Confucian moral thought, the formation of new kinds of cultural power, and the rise of elite public politics.
Hwisang Cho is an assistant professor in Korean studies at Emory University. Cho’s areas of specialization include the cultural, intellectual, and literary history of Korea, comparative textual media, and global written culture. His major work in progress is The Tales of the Master: T’oegye and the Making of Modern Korea, a study of how the culture of storytelling about a historical personage and its manifestation in diverse material forms have influenced the formation and appropriation of self-identities of various communities in Korea from the late sixteenth century to the present.