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Literature and Mass Media in Colonial Korea


Admission requirements

MA students with knowledge of modern Korean and/or East Asian history. Knowledge of Korean (or any other East Asian language) is recommended.


Koreans were not mere passive colonial subjects, but also active partiipants in an evolving socio-cultural context. In this seminar, literature and mass media take pride of place as arenas where Koreans engaged the complex changes taking place in colonial Korea, whether political, social, cultural and/or tehnological. Reading and writing was more than just pleasure of leisure. Writers were often influential social leaders who took their role as public intellectuals quite serious. With politics out of bounds, literature was one area where they debated Korea’s colonial status and the challenges posed by colonial modernity. Their literary productions engaged and elaborated on public debates on nationalism vs. socialism, resistance vs. collaboration, patriarchy vs. free love, rural nostalgia vs. urban hybridity. Cartoons, photo journalism and the emerging film industry visually underscored a public fascination for the confusing multiplicity of colonial modernity and urban hybridity, at times larded with a tinge of local nostalgia.
In this seminar, students will explore the diversity of the colonial experience by critically reading and discussing (translations of) primary and secondary sources. Form, content, and the interaction between text and image are the focus of an analysis of various visual materials.
Classes will consist of a one hour lecture, followed by student presentations and classroom discussion of the readings/viewings, this helping students to reflect on the colonial status of Korea and how it is dealt with in literary and visual media.

Course objectives

By reading colonial Korea literature and viewing visual media (cartoons, photo journalism, film) explore how Koreans negotiated their national/colonial/imperial subjecthood in a rapidly changing environment of colonial modernity and eventual mass mobilization.

  • Critically reading literary and visual materials

  • Deepening understanding of Korea´s colonial history

  • Mobilizing postcolonial theory

  • Creating awareness for the trans-national context of colonialism, nationalism (nation-building), modernity, gender and comparative literature.


Check the timetable

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Assessment method

  • Reading the assignments:

  • Essay (5000) words), students should choose a topic relevant to the content/aims of the course:

  • Short oral presentations about the assigned materials and one final presentation on the final essay:

Classwork: 40%
Written work: 60%



Reading list

  • Toshiyuki Kajiyama, The Clan Records: Five Stories of Korea (University of Hawaii Press, 1995).

  • Peter H. Lee (ed.), A History of Korean Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

  • Theodore Q. Hughes, Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom´s Frontier (Columbia University Press, 2012).

  • Ann Sung-hi Lee, Yi Kwang-su and Modern Korean Literature (CU East Asia Program, 2005).

  • Yom Sangseop, Three Generations (Archipelago Books, 2006).

  • Yi T´aejun, Eastern Sentiments (Columbia University Press, 2009).

A more detailed list will be distributed later.


Enrollment via uSis

Registration Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs

Contact information

Mw. Dr. J.S. Lee
Dhr. Dr. K. de Ceuster
Prof. Dr. R.E. Breuker