SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

An Analysis of the Text Structures of Cheonjugasa from the Linguistic Perspective

Dr Cho Wonhyong (Institut für Deutsche Sprache, Mannheim)

Date: 2 May 2014Time: 5:15 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G50

Type of Event: Seminar


Gasa, a kind of didactic poem, was a popular genre in traditional Korean literature, especially during late Joseon period. Some gasa works are used to instruct or persuade the people to do something good. It is usually composed of 4 feet (a foot has normally 4 syllables) in a line, while the length of lines has no linitation.

In the period when gasa is widely written and spread the Roman Catholicism is introduced in Korea without any missionary*.  But the Catholicism is during 19th Century severely persecuted by Korean government as well as other scholars who strictly kept the Confucian ideology. That is why the Roman Catholic gasa (kor. cheonjugasa) works are written. With cheonjugasa works the Korean Catholics intended to explain and argue against the persecutors that there belief is true and sincere.

To explain and proclaim an unacquainted new faith, the writers of cheonjugasa works devised some dramatic text structures, e.g. somewhat like sonata form, although the western music is in that period not introduced in Korea.

I tried to analyse the text structure of a well-known cheonjugasa work. With the linguistic analysis of macro structures as well as micro structure of Sahyangga, the most popular piece among all known cheonjugasa works, I will reveal that the anonymous writer of this cheonjugasa work established two poetic selves in two opposite themes which represent the believer of Catholicism and the earthly person or persecutor, and the latter is persuaded by the former in a sonata-like text structure, as if in a musical sonata two opposite themes in different musical scales are exposed, developed and recapitulated.
*The Korean Roman Catholic church is established in 1784.

Speaker's Biography

Dr Cho obtained his Ph D in Linguistics from the Seoul National University. He then worked as a visiting teacher at the Institute of Modern Languages, University of Dhaka and served as a lecturer in Suwon, Hanyang, and Inha universities in South Korea. In addition, he was employeed as a research professor at the Inha University and a researcher at the National Institue of Korean Language. Since 2013, he has been affilliated with the Institut für Deutsche Sprache, Mannheim, Germany, as a visiting researcher.  

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