SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Twelve gasa poetry in the context of Korean literature development: re-thinking the approach (“A Plum-blossom”poem)

Dr Anastasia Guryeva (Senior lecturer at Faculty of Asian and African Studies, Saint Petersburg State University)

Date: 7 February 2014Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 7 February 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G50

Type of Event: Seminar


What can a traditional literature text tell a contemporary reader? What information can we learn from it about the culture that gave birth to this text and about the readers’ circles where it was once circulating? Using the example of a popular genre, the lecture will aim at tracing some specifics of Late Joseon literary background with its relation to such general aspects of Korean culture and mentality as the problem of ‘taste’, perception of tradition in different periods of time, ritual models transformation and even relations between males and females.

The lecture will deal with one of the representative phenomena of the Late Joseon vernacular poetry – musical gasa poems. This kind of poems serves an example of a new form that originated within a traditional genre framework, illustrating an important feature of the period. Thus, a similar process of a new type of texts formation is characteristic for other poetry and prose genres as well, marking the examined stage of Korean literature development.

The musical gasa poems present a variety of texts containing different poetical genres elements, deeply relate with musical tradition, and show an active reaction to the widening of the readers’ audience in the 18-19 cent., therefore concurring with the general specifics of the literary world at the time. Such issues as the question of authorship, change in imagery system, borrowed elements usage etc. are to be regarded basing on the musical gasa example.

A special emphasis will be made on the text “A Plum-blossom” (Maehwa-ga) of an unknown author. The detailed textual analysis of this “multi-layered” poem will be used to consider the complex combination of the latest elements with elements tracing their roots to the mythological tradition and ancient ritual. A short excurse in the 18-19th century with illustrations of popular texts that will lead us to the general context of Korean literature development – this is the main outline of the lecture.

Speaker's Biography

In 2002 graduated from the Faculty of Asian and African Studies, Saint Petersburg State University, Since 2003 is a lecturer at the same Faculty. In 2012 defended Ph.D. dissertation on traditional Korean poetry. In 2001-2008 – a researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies (Saint-Petersburg branch, Russian Academy of Sciences). Member of Asian studies academic societies in Russia, Europe and the Republic of Korea.

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