SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Readings in Korean Literature

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 4
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to . . . 

  • demonstrate competence in reading and understanding literary works in Korean
  • demonstrate skills in analysing literary works through close readings of texts
  • identify and compare Korean literary language, styles and genres
  • assess critically the materials and themes explored in the course


This course is taught over 22 weeks with a one hour lecture and a one hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

This is a language-use course that focuses on training students to read and analyse literary language and texts in Korean. As the course deals with literary language in Korean, it is intended for final year students with higher intermediate/advanced level knowledge of Korean.

Each class session will consist of a lecture followed by a seminar. In the lectures, specific topics related to literary style, genre, and methodology will be examined, and students will be assigned tasks or questions for discussion each week. The seminar sessions will be directed readings of prescribed texts from different periods of Korean literary history. Students are expected to prepare English translations and an analysis of assigned passages prior to each seminar session, and present their preparation in finished form. In the process, students will be offered practice and training in reading and understanding literary works in Korean, and develop their analytical and academic writing skills through coursework essays.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (60%); one essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on the last day of term 1 (20%); one essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on the last day of term 2 (20%).

Suggested reading

  • A selection of literary works in Korean will be made available in a study pack.
Korean Literary History and Criticism
  • Allen, Chizuko T. “Ch’oe Namsŏn at the Height of Japanese Imperialism.” Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies 5.1 (2005): 27-49.
  • Bantly, Francisca Cho. Embracing Illusion: Truth and Fiction in The Dream of the Nine Clouds. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.
  • Grayson, James H. “The Myth of Tan’gun: A Dramatic Structural Analysis of a Korean Foundation Myth.” Korea Journal 37.1 (Spring 1997): 35-52.
  • Kontsevich, Lev R. “Reconstructing the Text of the Tan’gun Myth and Its Proper Names.” In Sang-Oak Lee and Duk-Soo Park, eds. Perspectives on Korea. Sydney: Wild Peony, 1998.
  • Korean National Commission for UNESCO, ed. Korean Literature: Its Classical Heritage and Modern Breakthroughs. Seoul and Elizabeth, N.J.: Hollym, 2003.
  • Lee Peter H., ed. A History of Korean Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Lee, Younghee. “Gender Specificity in Late-Chosŏn Buddhist Kasa.” Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies 6.1 (2006): 61-88.
  • McBride, Richard D. “The Vision-Quest Motif in Narrative Literature on the Buddhist Traditions of Silla.” Korean Studies 27 (2004): 16-47.
  • Sørensen, Henrik. “Problems with using the Samguk yusa as a source for the history of Korean Buddhism.” Cahiers d'Études Coreénnes 7 (2000): 271-88.
  • Trotsevic, A.F. “Korean Fiction and History.” In Daniel Bouchez, et al., eds. Twenty Papers on Korean Studies Offered to Professor W.E. Skillend. Paris: Centre d’études Coréennes, Collège de France, 1989, pp. 313-23.
Related Readings: Korean History, Culture and Reference Guides
  • Gardiner, Kenneth H. J. “Samguk sagi and its Sources.” Papers on Far Eastern History 2 (September 1970): 1-41.
  • Kim Taijin, ed. and trans. A Bibliographical Guide to Traditional Korean Sources. Seoul: Asiatic Research Center, 1976.
  • Nahm, Andrew C. Korea, Tradition and Transformation: A History of the Korean People. Elizabeth, N.J.: Hollym International Corp., 1988.
  • Pai, Hyung Il. Constructing “Korean” Origins: A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-Formation Theories. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 2000.
  • Skillend, W. E. Kodae Sosŏl: A Survey of Korean Traditional Style Popular Novels. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, c. 1968.
  • Song, Ki Joong, comp. Glossary of Korean Culture. Seoul: Chimundang, 2001.
Literary Theory
  • Beebee, Thomas O. The Ideology of Genre: A Comparative Study of Generic Instability. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, c. 1994.
  • Culler, Jonathan. The Pursuit of Signs. London and New York: Routledge, 2001 (c. 1981).
  • Cuddon, J. A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. London: Penguin Books, 1998.
  • Ferguson, Suzanne C. “Defining the Short Story: Impressionism and Form.” In Charles E. May, ed. The New Short Story Theories. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1994, pp. 218-30.
  • Jameson, Fredric. The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986, Volume 1: Situations of Theory (Theory and History of Literature, Volume 48). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988.
  • Said, Edward. The World, the Text and the Critic. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules