Katherine mansfield in colonial Seoul: Korean modernism, translation, cosmopolitanism

Kelly S. Walsh, Yoon Young Choi

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Korean modernism has often been termed derivative, its works considered belated attempts at mimicking Western models. It is undeniable that many writers sought out Western influences, both as a means to gain access to world literature and resist Japanese cultural imperialism; our investigation into the reception and translation of Katherine Mansfield in colonial Korea, though, offers a specific example of how cross-cultural flows and intertextuality energized modernist literature there, enabling stylistic and linguistic innovation. At the same time, while some Korean critics have dismissed modernists, like Mansfield's translators Pak T'aewŏn and Yi Hyosŏk, for their apparent retreat into aestheticism during the colonial period, we contend that the translations and literary reinventions of Mansfield meaningfully, if circumspectly, address the oppressiveness and injustice of colonial modernity, whether in the guise of gender inequality or the search for moments of haengbok (bliss). What these examples reveal is an important transnational affinity, a deep concern with the limitations imposed on life and literature and an awareness of the necessity and difficulty of overcoming them. Ultimately, it is the attunement to Mansfield's irony that gives these texts their critical force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-294
Number of pages30
JournalComparative Literature Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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