Some scholars insist that modern Korean literature began when Western literature was introduced after the Kabo Reforms of 1894. Others see its indigenous beginnings in late Chosŏn times, from about the eighteenth century. This work sees some validity in both views. It identifies two stages in a period of transition that began as early as the seventeenth century. During the first stage, lasting until 1860, traditional literati writing in classical Chinese began to show a critical awareness of then-current social conditions, even while others writing in vernacular Korean continued to depict traditional Chinese settings and Confucian morals. Even the p'ansori novels are moralistic, in spite of their insistence on liberation from social constraints. After the first Western impact about 1860, writers of shinsosŏl [the new novel] began to stress themes of enlightenment and national revitalization, even though an undercurrent of conservative fatalism flows beneath the surface. By the beginning of the modern period in 1919, medieval themes of moral imperative had yielded to modern themes of confrontation between the self and the world.