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Oral Literature as a Symbolic System—A Discourse on Northeast Asian Oral Literature in Comparative Studies of Eastern and Western Symbolism

Yun-Jong Lee 1

1원광대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Oral literature can largely be categorized into myth, legend, and folktales, which are stories orally transmitted from the prehistoric times. The purpose of this study is to compare the discourse on the oral literature of the East and the West from a cultural studies viewpoint by focusing on its “symbolic systems,” particularly “figures of speech,” or “tropic traits”, in order to utilize this oral literature as a resource in the study of Northeast Asian culture. Undergoing modernization, the symbolic meaning of oral literature has been demythologized both in the West and in Northeast Asia. Of course, oral literature, verbally transmitted over a long period of time, has naturally been changed over time and even “contaminated” in a sense by losing its original archaic archetype while it was textualized with letters during the early period of the modernization process. Nevertheless, the principle of “resemblance” and “similarity” between nature/universe and human/humanity, which has been stripped away in modernity, can still be found in oral literature with its mythic power. For this reason, the study of oral literature in the West has attempted to restore the lost magical power within it, particularly in myth. As such, this study delves into the symbolism of the mythic thought of Northeast Asian countries, namely Korea, China, and Japan, which has been lost in the course of their compressed modernization, in relation to the tropic figures of their oral literatures.

Citation status

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

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.