UBC Theses and Dissertations
Reading surrealism in Cho Se-hŭi’s The Dwarf and other works of modern Korean fiction Forsyth, Justin Chew
This thesis examines surrealism in works of modern Korean fiction, focusing on Cho Se-hŭi’s novel The Dwarf (Nanjangi ka ssoaollin chagŭn kong, 1978) and nine other works published between 1936 and 2011. Primary objectives are (1) to observe and analyze elements of surrealism in the various works under review, and (2) through that, noting the nature of surrealist fiction writing in modern Korea. A preliminary finding—based on the works discussed here—is that surrealist fiction in modern Korea generally and over time has become less political and more focused on exploring the subconscious. I examine elements of both political and literary surrealism. Focusing on elements of surrealism in the works lends itself to a comprehensive study of the texts. I take a postmodern approach, suggesting that each work is amenable to multiple, varied, and perhaps even contradictory interpretations. In looking at surrealist elements in these works, I hope to offer a distinctive focus for the critical study of modern Korean fiction. Surrealism in general and in the works analyzed in this thesis can be seen to function in a variety of ways. I argue the following: in the political and social sphere it highlights historical dehumanization and disenfranchisement of the oppressed and the working classes and proposes revolution against the transgressors; and in the literary realm, surrealist writers are experimental, subversive, and employ techniques aimed at uncovering the subconscious. Surrealism claims to enhance our awareness of the subconscious through such elements as dreams, humor, absurdity, and objective chance, inspiring us to revisit our vision of reality and to be informed to a greater extent by the subconscious. The analysis of The Dwarf in the first chapter and of the other works in the second chapter indicates that ideas, themes, and styles related to surrealism have persisted in Korean fiction from the first half of the 20th century up until contemporary times. The surrealist elements in these works also serve, among other purposes, to highlight relevant issues, some of them revolutionary, in the Korean social, political, and literary realms from the period of the Japanese colonization until the present day.
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