Continuing Orality and the Environment in Korean Literature: Writing as a Mode of Oral Performance in the Twentieth Century to the Present
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CitationYi, Ivanna. 2018. Continuing Orality and the Environment in Korean Literature: Writing as a Mode of Oral Performance in the Twentieth Century to the Present. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the intersections of oral performance, literature, and the environment in Korea in the twentieth century to the present. I create a new model for the interplay between the oral and the written called continuing orality, the flourishing of living oral traditions through transformation, often through interactions with the natural environment and media such as writing and recording technology. Focusing on p’ansori and sijo as case studies, I argue that epic and lyric oral traditions in Korea survive not only as musical performance but that they also harness the written as a mode in which to develop and flourish beyond traditional forms. The transformation of oral traditions across genres and media, including live performance, recorded music, and written text, is an indicator of their vitality and a key factor in the sustainability of oral traditions. Viewing oral traditions and literature through the lens of continuing orality reveals that practitioners of Korean oral traditions, including writers, have exercised their own agency, harnessing available technologies for the continuation of their traditions into the 21st century.
Part One focuses on writing as a mode of oral performance in the twentieth century and lays the conceptual groundwork for continuing orality. Whereas orality and literacy have often been placed in a binary or teleological relationship to each other in Korean and Anglophone scholarship, I draw on a Chosŏn conception of song and poetry as interwoven entities in the first sijo anthology, the Ch’ŏnggu yŏng’ŏn (1728), to analyze modern and contemporary works of Korean literature as sites of continuing oral performance. Through close readings of written and recorded texts as repositories for the oral tradition, I illuminate the archival and generative functions of contining orality.
Part Two examines the role of continuing orality in the anthropocene. Using interdisciplinary methods and approaches, including ecocriticism and ecomusicology, I connect issues of musical sustainability to ecological sustainability to bring attention to land as a critical site for continuing oral performance and storytelling. I argue that continuing oral narrative makes the relationship between human beings and land more visible and audible, with the potential to ameliorate ecological damage in the present. This dissertation opens new avenues of research by connecting the study of Korean literature with the indigenous oral traditions and literature of the Americas, which converge with the oral traditions of Korea through typological similarities, shared aesthetic and social concerns, and engagement with environmental and postcolonial realities. Moving beyond dominant Western Cartesian and capitalistic views of land as a commodifiable object, I investigate indigenous Native American and Korean conceptions of land as a sentient interlocutor. Drawing on oral stories and literature from Native American authors and communities, I interpret land as a text and a repository for the oral tradition. The dialogic relationship to land expressed in Native American oral stories and writings is compared with the work of Korean writers and the contemporary practices of p’ansori singers, who engage in mountain pilgrimages as part of the cultivation process for their voices. The dissertation demonstrates that many singers of Korean traditional music as well as writers have navigated and responded to the immense social and environmental changes following the Korean War (1950-53) by treating land not as an object but as an interlocutor, a speaking subject.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41127190
- FAS Theses and Dissertations 
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