Uijeon Yuk Yong-jeong is known for his Uijeon Gisul, the collection of writings in which he systematically developed his thoughts on enlightenment. But his literary works nowadays have also attracted notice from academics. This study is an attempt to examine his five biographical writings. The reason that I decided to focus attention on these works is that they are noticeable in being distinctively different from other biographical writings of Chinese classics and that their aesthetic sensibility is unfamiliar and impressively strong. This study tries to find the meaning of Yuk Yong-jeong’s biographical works in the context of narratives in his era through analyzing those five works and deriving the crucial characteristics from them. His five biographical works – The Life of Mo So-sa, a Soldier’s Wife, The Life of Song So-hab, The Life of Gaeja, Lee Suk-ju, The Life of Doja, Kim Dong-gan, and The Life of Lee Sung-sun – are all about low-class people, among whom some had experienced social and economic failure. These works show a transformation of existing forms of biographical writings because they tend to only very briefly give a person’s genealogy and generally not offer any conclusive judgment about the person. Moreover, many of the episodes recounted in them presented dead drunkenness, money-oriented attitudes, homosexuality, and violence, all of which were far from Confucian virtues. Due to these elements, Yuk Yong-jeong’s biographical works offer characteristics of raw rhetoric and a coarse aesthetic sensibility in an atmosphere of vulgarity. These characteristics found in his biographical works demonstrate a tendency different from his other genres, such as epitaphs and records of a deceased person’s life, in which he told normative narratives conforming to Confucian values. In his biographical writings, his views on perverse and minor people whose lives did not conform to Confucian values are neither negative nor judgmental, but accepting. Yuk Yong-jeong’s biographical works are found to have much in common with contemporary narrative, such as the new novel, in that there appeared a lot of low-class people and sensational episodes about sex and violence. This kind of aesthetically coarse sensibility of his works can be interpreted as follows: first, it may express pessimistic views on an uncertain and unpredictable future depicted as distorted desire; second, it might result from the attempt to find an alternative way of life in society on the part of Yuk Yong-jeong, a frustrated intellectual who believed in enlightenment thinking.


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pp. 35-66
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