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Story of the Eastern Chamber: Dilemmas of Vernacular Language and Political Authority in Eighteenth-Century Chosŏn

Story of the Eastern Chamber: Dilemmas of Vernacular Language and Political Authority in... The earliest extant playscript in Korea stands as an enigma. It is an anonymous work written to celebrate a wedding arranged by King Chŏngjo. Called Story of the Eastern Chamber, the play evokes not only the Chinese Story of the Western Chamber through titular reference but also the Chinese vernacular tradition as a whole. Written entirely in Chinese characters, the text weaves vernacular Korean words into the syntax of Chinese baihua vernacular, an unusual form which upsets the conventional diglossic binary of literary Chinese (hanmun) and vernacular Korean (hangŭl). This essay situates the text in a late Chosŏn discourse of linguistic difference marked by pronounced anxieties about the temporal and spatial contingency of language. Some late Chosŏn writers, including the text’s putative author, Yi Ok, embraced difference to carve out a localized literary space in Chosŏn Korea. For King Chŏngjo, it threatened the textual foundation of royal authority. Eastern Chamber spoke to these dilemmas by imagining a linguistic space where vernacular Korean usage could be represented as a literary language in the Chinese script, reconciling kingly authority with local specificity. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Korean Studies Duke University Press

Story of the Eastern Chamber: Dilemmas of Vernacular Language and Political Authority in Eighteenth-Century Chosŏn

Journal of Korean Studies , Volume 24 (1) – Mar 1, 2019

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Copyright
Copyright © 2019 by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York
ISSN
0731-1613
eISSN
2158-1665
DOI
10.1215/21581665-7258042
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The earliest extant playscript in Korea stands as an enigma. It is an anonymous work written to celebrate a wedding arranged by King Chŏngjo. Called Story of the Eastern Chamber, the play evokes not only the Chinese Story of the Western Chamber through titular reference but also the Chinese vernacular tradition as a whole. Written entirely in Chinese characters, the text weaves vernacular Korean words into the syntax of Chinese baihua vernacular, an unusual form which upsets the conventional diglossic binary of literary Chinese (hanmun) and vernacular Korean (hangŭl). This essay situates the text in a late Chosŏn discourse of linguistic difference marked by pronounced anxieties about the temporal and spatial contingency of language. Some late Chosŏn writers, including the text’s putative author, Yi Ok, embraced difference to carve out a localized literary space in Chosŏn Korea. For King Chŏngjo, it threatened the textual foundation of royal authority. Eastern Chamber spoke to these dilemmas by imagining a linguistic space where vernacular Korean usage could be represented as a literary language in the Chinese script, reconciling kingly authority with local specificity.

Journal

Journal of Korean StudiesDuke University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2019

References