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Yi Kwang-su and Modern Korean Literature: Mujong

127 YiKwangSu
Ann Sung-hi LEE
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Yi Kwang-su (1892-1950) was one of the pioneers of modern Korean literature. When the serialization of Mujông (The Heartless) began in 1917, it was an immediate sensation, and it occupies a prominent place in the Korean literary canon. The Heartless is the story of a love triangle among three youths during the Japanese occupation. Yi Hyông-sik is a young man in his mid-twenties who is teaching English at a middle school in Seoul. Brilliant but also shy and indecisive, he is torn between two women. Kim Sôn-hyông is from a wealthy Christian family; she has just graduated from a modern, Western-style school and is planning on continuing her studies in the United States. Pak Yông-ch’ae is a musically gifted young woman who was raised in a traditional Confucian manner; due to family misfortune, she has become a kisaeng but remains devoted to Hyông-sik whom she knew as a child.The Heartless goes beyond the level of romantic melodrama and uses these characters to depict Korea’s struggles with modern culture and national identity. A long critical introduction discusses Yi Kwang-su’s life and work from his birth in 1892 to the publication of his first novel The Heartless in 1917. It contains in-depth analyses of the novel, Yi Kwang-su’s literary theory, and early short stories. | 402 pages


  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: A Biography of Yi Kwang-su: the Early Years (1892-1917)
  • Korean Literature from the Late Nineteenth to Early Twentieth Centuries
  • Language and Korean Literature
  • Yi's Early Writings and Literary Thought
  • Mujong
  • Plates
  • Notes on Translation
  • The Heartless
  • Bibliography
  • Index


  • "Those of us interested in modern Korean literature are indebted to Ann Sung-Hi Lee for making this full text of Mujong available in English in a thoroughly researched and readable translation." - Kichung Kim, Korean Studies Review 2007 No. 5. See full text of review attached.


  • Ann Sung-hi LEE has a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University and has taught at the University of Southern California, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Washington.

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