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Howling Plants and Animals: Kim Suyŏng's Sovereign Language and Rereading "Grasses"

From: Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
Volume 72, Number 1, June 2012
pp. 101-139 | 10.1353/jas.2012.0000



Young Jun Lee analyzes the poetry of the modern Korean writer Kim Suyŏng (1921-1968) in the context of the turbulent social-historical transformations involving Korea's loss of sovereignty, threats to individual life, and the disruption of a sense of belonging to the larger secular and sacred orders. Lee argues that Kim, in response to his times, questioned, and reduced to a state of silence the received meanings of language, and that from this liminal state of silence, or "speechless words," he produced new meanings. Kim Suyŏng located the lyric self in liminal positions, between the North and the South, night and day, transcendental heaven and immanent earth. Through his poetry he thus tried to transcend the sorrowful reality of a confrontational world and to retrieve the sovereign subjectivity of the modern Korean language.

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