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The Actual Nature of the Understanding and Enjoyment of Gososeol (古小說) as Seen through the Documentary Records of Foreigners of the Early 20th Century - focusing on the article ‘Korean Fiction’ in The Korea Review (1902) -

Lee, Min Heui 1

1강원대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

There are not enough extant written sources which allow us to reconstruct the reading culture of Gososeol (古小說, Korean classic novel). In such a situation, some the documents left by foreigners who wrote about the reading culture and enjoyment of Gososel works can be an important complementary source. Especially, The Korea Review (1902), which contained an article entitled ‘Korean Fiction’ by Hulbert, is a good example; Hulbert introduces in this article the history of Gososel, the unique characteristics of the works, and the enjoyment aspect and real life of old novel readers. Therefore, we can judge, from these articles, how foreigners regarded the Korean old novel 100 years ago. Hulbert was interested in Korean classic literature, studying various fields and staying in Korea for about 20 years, which is why he wrote an article such as ‘Korean Fiction’. And though the Swedish journalist Arson Grebst stayed in Korea for only 4 months, he also recorded vividly how Korean people enjoyed their old novel works at the time, and how foreigners regarded the Korean old novels. They commonly recognized that Pansori and old novels are oral narrative and recorded the perception that foreigners had about the relationship between Pansori and Gososeol enjoyment under a multi-faceted academic interest. In addition, they also observed and precisely recorded the reading scenes of storytellers and scenes of Pansori. In the article ‘Korean Fiction’, Hulbert identified the Korean-text novel, rather than the Chinese-text novel, as being located at the center of the developmental processes in the history of Korean old novels. This is opposite to the perspective of Thomas Gale, who was famously pro-Korean. Hulbert emphasized the close relationship between the novel genre, tales and folk art. It is also possible to confirm, based on the documentary evidence left by these foreigners, that the reciting of Gososeol works in the form of an oral text - such as Yojeonbeop (邀錢法) - was a general occurrence, and more popular than its reading in the form of a book text. This demonstrates that the documentary records of foreigners are important and useful material in surveying how reciting reading instead of silent reading was popular in the early 20th century.

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.