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Expectations of Hope : On Yi Yong-hyu’s Elegies

  • The Studies in Korean Poetry and Culture
  • Abbr : Korean Poetry and Culture
  • 2017, (40), pp.281-310
  • Publisher : The Society of Korean Poetry and Culture
  • Research Area : Humanities > Korean Language and Literature

Hur, Yoon-jin 1

1서강대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

It is often said that consolatory literature such as elegy or bereavement poems may lack artistic singularity because its conventions and opportunities of creation are far more dominant than its aesthetics. On the contrary, the elegies of Yi Yong-hyu(李用休, 1708-1782) transform the conventional characteristics of the genre into the ethics of other and achieve the ideal marriage of ethics and aesthetics. The poet reshapes the view on death in terms of an economic metaphor comparing divine other such as the creator(造物) or the Heaven(天) to the owner of human being. According to his observation, death means the return of the borrowed object to his/her owner, there is no reason to lament excessively for the dead. The hopeful expectation for resurrection is unveiled instead. Other than expressing his own grief, Yi focuses on representing the dead and the bereaved all together and thereby conserving the communality of family and society in his elegies. From an ethical perspective, Yi also conducts an aesthetic interpretation of the personality of the dead instead of admiring mundane standards of one's accomplishments. In sum, the elegies of Yi Yong-hyu triumph over pessimist or nihilist views on death with an ethical vision; they connect divine other, the dead, the bereaved and the lamenting poet with readers-of-the-moment as an on-going community. Yi's elegies are great expectations of hope left in Korean cultural history.

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