Northwestern Events Calendar


The Epistolary Age: Letter Writing and the Shapes of Power in Early Modern Korea

When: Tuesday, May 23, 2017
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM Central

Where: Kresge Hall, 1515, 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Department of Asian Languages and Cultures   847.491.5288

Group: Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

Category: Academic


This talk examines the “epistolary revolution” that shaped the Korean society from the sixteenth century to the end of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910) and beyond. In particular, it discusses how the ingenious uses of letters and the appropriation of letter writing practices empowered cultural, social, and political minority groups: (1) Chosŏn Confucians who did not have access to the advanced scholarship of contemporary China; (2) women using vernacular Korean script who were excluded from the literary Chinese written culture dominated by male elites; (3) provincial literati who were marginalized from the court politics. By examining the physical peculiarities of new letter forms, the cooptation of letters for other purposes after their communicative functions, and the rise of diverse political epistolary genres, the talk reveals how innovation in epistolary practices allowed diverse writers to move beyond the limits imposed by existing scholarly culture, gender norm, and political systems. While emphasizing how epistolary revolution posed new challenges to traditional values and already-established institutions, it demonstrates that new modes of reading and writing developed in letter writing triggered a flourishing of Neo-Confucian moral thought, the formation of new kinds of cultural power, and the rise of elite public politics.

Hwisang Cho is assistant professor of Asian history at Xavier University. He received his Ph.D. in premodern Korean history from Columbia University. During 2016–17, he is a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. His research is also supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School, University of Virginia (2015–17). His research interests include the cultural, intellectual, and literary history of Korea and East Asia, comparative textual media, global written culture, and textual practices in contentious politics.

Add to Calendar

Add Event To My Group:

Please sign-in