Belatedness and innovation: Korean modernism

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If Japanese modernists, as Eric Hayot argues, conceived modernism and modernity as originating in the West, colonial Korean artists inevitably apprehended modernism from a double remove, through the mediation of Japanese literature and language. While they self-consciously sought to develop a distinctive Korean modernist poetics (one not prefigured by Japanese modernism), the sense of belatedness remained inescapable among Korean modernist practitioners. With the ‘expansionism’ of the new modernist studies, as is well known, there has been substantial critical work to challenge and reject the belatedness and derivativeness attributed to ‘peripheral’ modernities and modernisms. However, to properly appreciate the singularity of Korean modernism, and its expressive efforts to place its colonial modernity in a global context, it is necessary to confront how these modernists understood, figured, and rearticulated their sense of belatedness. Taking a cue from Michaela Bronstein, I attend to the uses Korean modernists made of Western (and Japanese) modernisms and how these engagements enact the aesthetic and critical force of belatedness. Ultimately, I contend, Korean modernism's self-reflexive, intertextual stagings of belatedness generate stylistic innovation, enabling writers to situate themselves within global modernism and disclose the fraudulence of colonial modernization and its imposition of second-hand forms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12690
JournalLiterature Compass
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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