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A Reception Aesthetic Study on Sijo in English Translation: The Case of James S. Gale

From: Seoul Journal of Korean Studies
Volume 26, Number 1, June 2013
pp. 175-213 | 10.1353/seo.2013.0005



This article intends to closely examine J.S. Gale's English translations of sijo on the basis of thirty-two pieces he translated. Gale (1863-1937), a Canadian missionary, came to Korea in the late nineteenth century and stayed for more than forty years. Among his achievements in Korea the most notable is that he translated and introduced Korean classics, including the sijo, to the English-speaking world. Prior to 1892 Gale obtained a commercially woodblock-printed book entitled Namhun t'aepyŏngga and selected more than thirty pieces from it for translation. He published most of the sijo translations in two missionary journals - The Korea Repository and The Korea Mission Field - starting withfour texts published in the April 1895 issue of The Korea Repository. Gale's translations are significant in that they are the first English translations of sijo. In order to properly ascertain Gale's place in the history of Korean literature translation, this article examines the characteristics of his translations in detail. The first section surveys what significance Gale's translation had in Korean translation history and dwells at length on "reception aesthetics" as the methodological basis of this article. Section two discusses first his view of translation and then examines detailed characteristics of his translation. The conclusion looks at how Gale's translation work was succeeded by later translations.