Questioning Minds: Short Stories by Modern Korean Women Writers

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Yung-Hee Kim
University of Hawaii Press, 2010 - Literary Criticism - 233 pages
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Available for the first time in English, the ten short stories by modern Korean women collected here touch in one way or another on issues related to gender and kinship politics. All of the protagonists are women who face personal crises or defining moments in their lives as gender-marked beings in a Confucian, patriarchal Korean society. Their personal dreams and values have been compromised by gender expectations or their own illusions about female existence. They are compelled to ask themselves Who am I? Where am I going? What are my choices? Each story bears colorful and compelling testimony to the life of the heroine. Some of the stories celebrate the central character s breakaway from the patriarchal order; others expose sexual inequality and highlight the struggle for personal autonomy and dignity. Still others reveal the abrupt awakening to mid-life crises and the seasoned wisdom that comes with accepting the limits of old age.

The stories are arranged in chronological order, from the earliest work by Korea s first modern woman writer in 1917 to stories that appeared in 1995 approximately one from each decade. Most of the writers presented are recognized literary figures, but some are lesser-known voices. The introduction presents a historical overview of traditions of modern Korean women s fiction, situating the selected writers and their stories in the larger context of Korean literature. Each story is accompanied by a biographical note on the author and a brief critical analysis. A selected bibliography is provided for further reading and research.

Questioning Minds marks a departure from existing translations of Korean literature in terms of its objectives, content, and format. As such it will contribute to the growth of Korean studies, increasing the availability of material for teaching Korean literature in English, and stimulate readership of its writers beyond the confines of the peninsula.

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Contents

Traditions in Modern Korean Womens Fiction Writing by YUNGHEE KIM
1
A Girl of Mystery 1917
15
Kyŏnghŭi 1918
24
Awakening 1926
55
Hydrangeas 1949
68
The Mist 1950
83
When Autumn Leaves Fall 1961
100
A Dish of Sliced Raw Fish 1979
119
The Light at Dawn 1985
150
Stone in Your Heart 1992
164
Dried Flowers 1995
186
Notes
215
Bibliography
223
Index
229
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About the author (2010)

Yung-Hee Kim is Professor of Korean literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her publications include Questioning Minds: Short Stories by Modern Korean Women Writers and Readings in Modern Korean Literature (co-authored).

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