Theses Doctoral

The Subject of Feelings: Emotion, Kinship, Fiction, and Women’s Culture in Korea, Late 17th—Early 20th Centuries

Chizhova, Ksenia

This dissertation traces the discourse of emotion embodied in the lineage novel (kamun sosŏl 家門小說), a genre that circulated from the late seventeenth until the early twentieth century and was intimately related to the flourishing women’s culture of Chosŏn Korea (1392-1910). Sagas in hundreds of manuscript volumes, lineage novels trace the lives of multiple generations of established civil lineages. Comprised of stories of rise and fall of family fortunes, foreign expeditions, court intrigues, and personal confrontations that often reach cataclysmic dimension, the lineage novel is an encyclopedia of human experience and a literary form that developed in parallel to the establishment of Korea’s patriarchal lineage structure in the seventeenth century. Just as it valorizes the fundamental premises of the patriarchal lineage, the lineage novel affirms private feelings as inalienable ingredient of authentic personal histories and the fabric of domestic life.

While sharing its origin with other genres of writing lineage, such as genealogies, family histories, and commemorative texts, the material shape of the lineage novel, which circulated exclusively in manuscript form, is embedded in women’s practice of vernacular calligraphy: manuscript inscriptions reveal the untiring work of female scribers who reproduced these massive texts. The novels themselves create a sophisticated conception, in which the patriarchal vision of people’s relationships is extended to account for intimacies and passions that are omitted from the Confucian norm. The early-twentieth-century chapter of the lineage novel’s history, moreover, tells us of the curious metamorphoses of literary genres and reading audiences of the time, while also providing a comparative hermeneutic angle upon the discourse of emotion in “modern” Korean literature and particularly its harbinger, Yi Kwangsu’s 1917 novel The Heartless (Mujŏng).

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Ko, Dorothy
Kim, Jungwon
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 24, 2015