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Date 2021-04-22


On the Acceptance of Modernist Poetry into the Korean Literature in the 1930s


Choi, Mal-Soon

Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University


The Modernist literature in Korea in the 1930s reflects social changes caused by capitalist development on one hand, and it gives diversified literary responses to the experience of colonial rule on the other hand. In particular, the key difference from the literature in the past lies in the capture of modern feeling by experimenting with different techniques and styles to achieve brand-new aesthetic effects. In other words, literary responses made to colonial capitalism via the acceptance and production of Western Modernism have the characteristics of aesthetic modernity. From the perspective of the influence of Western Modernist literature, the modern recognition of contemporary colonial capitalism, and the transformation of Korea, this study performs an analysis on three dimensions of Modernist literature in the 1930s by discussing the poetic works of six poets.

To begin with, this study discusses the poems written by the earlier poets, Kim Ki-Rim and Kim Kwang-Gyun. Regardless of slight differences in writing styles, technically they are deeply influenced by imagism, a movement of Modernism in Britain and the United States. In their poems, emotions are seldom seen, and messages are delivered by means of numerous images, to present a more rational style. In terms of the content, they prefer to depict the scenery of urban areas, and indirectly express their viewpoints in modern times. Secondly, Yi Sang and O Chang-Hwan are influenced by Dadaism and symbolism, respectively. They carry out a deeper and more internal exploration of properties and the nature of modern times, and finally obtain a negative understanding of modernity in common. Thirdly, Chong Chi-Yong and Paek Sok attempt to figure out solutions to modern unrest and the risk of self-splitting by means of the national sentiment of being Koreans and pleasant memories of pre-modern rural communities.

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