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A male writer's betrayed: uncovering a ginyeo's inner life

Jin-kyun Kim 1

1성균관대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Ok Yi’s Buk-gwan-gi-ya-gok-ron (A treatise on a Gisaeng from Hamkyungdo lamenting in the middle of night) and Young-man Byeon’s Baek Wun-Seon both have something in common in that they deal with the episodes of well-known gisaengs’ lives in their contemporary era. It is notable that both of the works describe the stories of ginyeos from the perspective of a male writer, trying to gingerly get access to the interior or psychological scene of the feminine lives. Yi portrays a gisaeng named Ka-Ryeon who is full of confidence, only to face the frustrating situation in making her serious effort to have sex with a beautiful young man with whom she madly falls in love. With this story, the writer strives to explicate the implications of Ka-Ryeon’s desire in terms of relationship between a king and his subject. Byeon recollects a story of a gisaeng named Baek Wun-Seon who seeks to run away abroad with her beloved man, but only to fail in the end. The writer’s primary concern with this episode lies in exploring an absolute value of love and passion. However, when Yi employs the narrative voice of Ka-Ryeon to lead the story in Buk-gwan-gi-ya-gok-ron, the strategic choice ironically betrays the author’s male-oriented perspective and discloses the rather natural scope of the gisaeng’s desire. In so doing, the text formulates fragmented and yet authentic quality of the female voice. The literary engagement of Byeon who is eager to uncover the authenticity of his literary object betrays his initial intention in Baek-Wun-Seon. By focusing on the psychological dimension of gisaengs’ lives, the two male writers initially intend to capture the heart of their feminine lives with their masculine voice. But the strategy is miscarried only to reveal the authenticity or rather genuine quality of ginyeos’ inner lives which often remain undisclosed in common literary discourse. It is notable how this whole process ironically exposes the full scope of gisaengs’ silenced voices in the early modern literary discourse.

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.