The "Homosexual Code" in Contemporary Korean Theatre: The Case of Shakespeare's R & J in Seoul

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This essay critiques the vogue of "the homosexual code" in contemporary Korean theatre, with a close-up analysis of ShowNote Company's Shakespeare's R & J that premiered in 2018. It first examines the surge of queer-themed films and theatres since the mid- 2000s in relation to the growing visibility of homosexuality, the changing concept of masculinity, the "flower boy" syndrome, and neoliberalism in South Korea. Defining the "homosexual code" as a distancing strategy of encoding homosexuality to bypass homophobia, I problematize the way queer subject is appropriated for novelty and spectacle in the theatre industry. The second part of the essay examines ShowNote's R & J in depth, partly in response to a recent discussion of Choo Min Ju's Our Bad Magnet (2012) by Claire Maria Chambers. Pointing to a close resemblance between the two, I argue that both shows adopt the established formula of "the homosexual code," contingent upon the neoliberal ideology of commodification and consumerism. Yeeyon Im is Associate Professor of English Literature at Yonsei University, where she teaches drama. She has published widely on intercultural Shakespeare in journals including Theatre Journal and New Theatre Quarterly. Her articles on Wilde and Yeats appeared in Comparative Drama, Comparative Critical Studies and Modern Drama. Having recently completed a project on Yeats's plays and Indian philosophy, Im plans to work further on Western drama and Eastern thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-132
Number of pages17
JournalAsian Theatre Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Yonsei University Research Fund of 2020 (2020-22-0066).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 University of Hawaii Press. All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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