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Re-reading Queen Sohye’s Naehun Park, Si Nae

Abstract

Previous scholarship on the Naehun (Instruction for the Inner Sphere) has often understood the Naehun as its author Queen Sohye's attempt at forcefully imposing the notion of women's absolute submission to men and that the text was written exclusively for a female audience. These analyses, thought not entirely wrong, appear to be based on certain misrepresentative portions of the text and is closely related to the modern day valorization of King Sejong in his creation of the Korean vernacular script, the hunmin chong'um (Correct Sound for the Instruction of the People). Therefore, in this thesis, I propose a way of re-reading Queen Sohye's Naehun by contesting the traditional understandings about the text's intended audience and its theme and by de-mythologizing the nature of the vernacular translation ipnhae) portions in the Naehun. I then offer an intertexual analysis of Sohye's Naehun and Ban Zhao's Ntijie (Precepts for My Daughters) in order to argue that the underlying philosophy in the Naehun is the notion of Neo-Confucian universality ("sagehood for all humankind") and the text's initial intended audience included both men and women. I propose that the most emphasized virtue of women in the Naehun is intellect, moral rectitude, and capability to act as counselors and remonstrators to their men. Such portrayal of women suggests a subversive notion of a "blurred" demarcation of the inner and the outer spheres. Bearing in mind this "subversive" idea in the light of the historical context of Queen Chonghiii regency, one can read Sohye's Naehun as an argument intended to subdue any brewing dissatisfaction against Chonghui's leadership among male Confucian scholars in the court.

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