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Narrative in the Slice-of-Life Genre and Self-Representation as Strategy—Focusing on Slice-of-Life Webtoons by Women

KEONHYUNG KIM 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The recent popularity of observation-variety shows and personal broadcasts calls attention to biographical narrative strategies through which representations of the self within daily life are produced. Slice-of-life webtoons have largely been interpreted in generational terms, relating the neoliberal era to the irony and self- destructiveness of an othered youth culture. These interpretations limit the concept of youth to a ‘universal’ male perspective and make the slice-of-life genre into merely a reflection of a generational analysis provided by sociology. This study examines the politics produced by the slice-of-life genre’s principles of representation. Slice-of-life webtoons are unique in their biographical nature, narrating the daily life of the author through a character who represents the author him or herself, but they are also written with the active reader of the webtoon platform in mind. This study shows that the slice-of-life genre employs various narrative strategies to create the illusory identity of the ‘I’ who experiences the events and the narrative ‘I’ who interprets and reproduces them. The authorial ‘I’ works within these generic criteria to create an image of the implied author ‘I’ from the representations of ‘I’ as character and narrator. The slice-of-life genre’s unique political character arises from the ethical and aesthetic image of the implied author created through this biographical code. Michyeo Nalttwineun Saenghwaltun contradicts reader expectations for identity between the author and character by exposing the author’s true circumstances and bringing them in contact with the discourse on youth. The narrator aestheticizes the authorial ‘I’ as a ‘hard-working young person,’ but in the process under-represents the character’s femininity, highlighting the issue of gender representation. The narrator of Agi nanneun manhwa, a webtoon about the author’s pregnancy, criticizes the violence of the discourse surrounding pregnancy in Korean society and desacralizes the experience of motherhood using commentary from after the events of the narrative. In this way it creates an image of the authorial ‘I’ as a discursive subject who guides the reader. The slice-of-life genre’s unique narrative grammar of self-representation is a reminder that the ability to speak and represent the self is a political resource. Representation of one’s daily life is an especially important strategy for those ‘selves’ who cannot avoid being political.

Citation status

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