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Colonial Joseon’s Reading of the Iliad: Ro Ja-Young’s Reading of the Text as “A Novel of Love”

  • Journal of Humanities, Seoul National University
  • 2019, 76(3), pp.135-167
  • DOI : 10.17326/jhsnu.76.3.201908.135
  • Publisher : Institute of Humanities, Seoul National University
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : July 7, 2019
  • Accepted : August 7, 2019
  • Published : August 31, 2019

Heon KIM 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

How did colonial Joseon in 1920s read the Iliad, considered to be the best classic of western literature? This article answers this question by studying Choonsung Ro Ja-Young’s The Story of Iliad. This is the first work that introduced the Iliad to Joseon. Joseon intellectuals in 1920s earnestly began to be interested in so-called world literature. As part of this trend, the Iliad was introduced to Joseon readers. However, Ro’s work is not a translation of the Homeric original, but a kind of summary. Furthermore, he adds the story of Paris’ judgement, which brought about the Trojan war, to the beginning of the Iliad’s plot, and at the end adds a story of happy ending, in which Menelaus and Helen return home together in victory after ten years of war. In this reconstruction of the story, Ro reads the Iliad as a love story and prefixes “a novel of love” to the title The Story of Iliad. In fact, he interposes romantic elements and an idea of “love for love’s sake” that do not appear in the Homeric original. What is the reason for this? It is argued that Ro tried to actively meet the needs of the publishing business and the public. In order to avoid Japanese censorship that has become stricter after the March First Independence Movement on the one hand, and to satisfy the needs of the public and to make the largest profit possible, publishing love story was most appropriate as a business strategy. However, such public needs and Ro’s publishing strategy should be also considered as the result of the cultural trend in 1920s Joseon, which could be defined as “the time of love”.

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