During the Chosŏn period (1392–1897), especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gentry women created their own literary world independent of men wherein they wrote and read novels and diaries in han’gŭl as a part of their education and their entertainment. Reading and diligently copying those texts in the women’s quarters was not just a pale reflection of male discourse in literary Chinese, but a distinct practice with its own rules. The most interesting of the texts that these women read were the translations of Chinese vernacular novels. Those translations formed a critical literary genre that would have profound implications for Korean literary history because the translations included highly vernacular passages that are not to be found in Korean indigenous narrative. The Chinese vernacular narratives, through the act of translation, forced Korean narrative toward a true vernacular. These translated texts, about which few records survive, are closer to the Korean modern novel than any other premodern texts. It is critical that we consider them as a significant part of the evolution of Korean narrative.


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