SOAS University of London

Japan & Korea Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Culture

Readings in Korean Literature (PG)

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1


Please note that this is NOT a language acquisition course, and students must already have higher intermediate / advanced level competency in reading modern Korean when enrolling in the course.  TOPIK level 4/5, or equivalent level of competence in Korean.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module, a student will be able to:

  1. demonstrate advanced competence in reading and understanding literary works in Korean;
  2. question, identify, and discuss issues related to literary language, style, genre, and themes in Korean literary history;
  3. identify and use relevant reference materials, critical sources and methods in reading and understanding Korean literary texts from different time periods.


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with 20 hours classroom contact over the period of the module. There will be a 1 hour lecture per week and a 2 hours seminar every other week.

Scope and syllabus

This module investigates distinctive cultural elements and formal features of Korean literary modes and styles, through close readings of selected texts from different historical periods. It is designed to help students develop their knowledge of Korean cultural words, literary language, form and content, and skills in close reading and comprension of different expressive text types. The syllabus combines informative presentations with practical exercises through lectures and seminars. In the lectures, specific topics related to Korean literary genres and modes of expression are examined. The seminar sessions are directed readings of Korean texts, which form the basis for further in-depth discussion.

This is a compulsory module for the exit award in MA Korean Studies (Literature), but can also be taken as an option on other MA programmes. Prior knowledge of Korean literature is not required, but students must have higher-intermediate level reading skills in Korean (see Prerequisites).

There is no set syllabus for this module, but a list of texts and topics will be made available from the convenor at the beginning of the module each year. It will combine informative lectures with directed readings and seminar discussions of prescribed texts. Diverse genres of Korean literary works from different time periods will be assigned.

Method of assessment

A portfolio of up to five reading grids of between 2,000 - 2,500 words, due on the last day of the term in which the module is taught (40%); an oral presentation of 15-20 minutes on an assigned text or topic, with a handout summarising the main points (10%); an essay of 2,500 - 3,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, in the term after the module is taught (50%).

Suggested reading

NOTE: All books are already in the Library

Primary Texts and Secondary Sources in Korean
A selection of literary works and secondary sources in Korean will be made available in a study pack.

Korean Literary History and Criticism

  • Allen, Chizuko T. “Northeast Asia Centered Around Korea: Ch’oe Namson’s View of History.” The Journal of Asian Studies 49:4 (Nov., 1990): 787-806.
  • 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. 
  • Robinson, Michael. “Narrative Politics, Nationalism and Korean History.” Paper of the British Association for Korean Studies 6 (1996): 26-40. 
  • 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.p. 313-23.

Literary Theory

  • Barthes, Roland. “Historical Discourse.” In Michael Lane, ed. Structuralism: A Reader. London: Jonathan Cape, 1970, pp. 145-55.
  • Beebee, Thomas O. The Ideology of Genre: A Comparative Study of Generic Instability. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, c. 1994.
  • Cuddon, J. A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. London: Penguin Books, 1998.
  • Culler, Jonathan. The Pursuit of Signs. London and New York: Routledge, 2001 (c. 1981).
  • Eagleton, Terry.  Function of Criticism. London: Verso, 1984.
  • 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.
  • Prendergast, Christopher, ed. Debating World Literature. London: Verso, 2004.
  • Said, Edward. The World, the Text and the Critic. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules