SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Iryǒn as a historian



Miriam Löwensteinová Miriam Löwensteinová (Associate Professor, Charles University Prague, Institute of EA Studies, Czech Republic)

Date: 14 March 2014Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 14 March 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G50

Type of Event: Seminar


The broad concept of historical literature opens various questions. Generally, this kind of literature people perceive as a genre of strong objectivity, genre significant as the quality of information concerns; and “reliable“ in the categorization of the theory of literature. However, we cannot consider “historical literature” as a whole alike we cannot simply speak about “fiction” in this way. Definitely, “histories” offer relatively stable inventory usually accepted as “historical”. This influenced not only this kind of literature, but entered the structure of the fiction whose purpose is not cultivation but entertainment. Classical East Asian history possessed many functions, among others religious and didactic. History was highly esteemed, dedicated to “following generations” not only due to the preservation of national tradition, but as illustrative and multipurpose source. Parts of official histories were discussed, quoted, paraphrased etc and entered other genres.
Though constituted and accepted as mediator of objective and truthful information, every historian in his point of view calculated with the audience (past, contemporary and future) and communicated with it, whether consciously or unconsciously. And this aspect of writing history we will try to discuss demonstrating the author´s intervention in the text of Samguk Yusa (三國遺事), Korean medieval chronicle. To be normative, Samguk Yusa presents itself as a historical text, i.e. it contains and preserves many features of the then mun, it uses all the available materials concerning the era of Samguk and T´ongil Silla. Nevertheless, the aim of the chronicle was not telling the only official part of Korean history, but recording – through various stories – the Buddhist tradition of the history of Korea, the history of Buddhist missionaries, eminent monks, miracles, places and relicts etc. Thus, the text is far from official histories in its genre characteristics, it alternates historical and fictitious features and, it is purposeful in many aspects. The talk will also try to explain Samguk Yusa from the author´s point of view, speculate about his original intention and discuss the mains and ways of its fulfilment.

Speaker Biography

Miriam Löwensteinová, associate professor, Ph.D., Charles University in Prague. Graduated from Charles University in Prague, Korean and Russian Studies, worked at Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences (1982 – 1993), teacher of Korean Literature and Korea History since 1993, responsible for Czech Korean Studies since 2004. Her main interest is Classical Korean Literature, especially medieval chronicles, p´aesǒl and kodae sosǒl genres.

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