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Burden of History and Question of Agency

Jinsoo An 1

1서울대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

Korean historical drama of the 1960s focus primarily on the fallen victims of history. Contrary to serious and critical discourse of history, the history that the genre offers is often fatalistic and melodramatic in character. In particular, these films attempts to convey different mode of historicization through melodramatic pattern of identification. Visual opulence and tragic story then create a peculiarly jarring effect on viewers, promoting ambivalent view on history; the films simultaneously glorify and denounce the past. The thematic preoccupation with the failure and demise then enables one to interrogate the genre's central theme: burden of history and question of agency. King Yonsan and Yonsan, the terrible are exemplar texts that illustrate the negative dynamics in Chosun court to the extreme. The protagonist endeavors to exonerate his late deposed mother queen, only to find insurmountable resistance from the court officials. In an effort to cope with the burden of history, he then plunges into self-destructive behavior. This in turn unveils the repressed family history, which leaves irrecoverable trauma in his psyche. The films' excessive style then offers textual signs for perception of history which is different from the dominant discourse of history which is based on realistic aesthetics.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.