In light of recent studies that situate the early twentieth-century Korean-Manchurian writer Kang Kyŏngae within the global formation of colonial modernity rather than the chronicles of nationalist anticolonialism, this article argues for the relevance of Kang and of the state of Manchukuo to the ongoing study of the relationship between peripheral literary forms and capitalist modernity. Because it was an economic and ideological testing ground, Manchukuo challenges the apparent characteristics of a periphery. Examining Manchukuo's cultural and literary production thus calls for a new means of understanding peripheral literature's capacity to reveal nuanced dimensions of the capitalist world-system. This article shows how the idea of peripheral realism, a theoretical framework proposed by Jed Esty and Colleen Lye (2012), makes it possible to constellate Kang's novelistic form within new horizons of comparability and recovered histories of cultural production far from capitalism's centers. Viewed through this lens, Kang's work in turn helps to break up a falsely monolithic notion of the non-Western periphery and illustrate its variegated texture. To demonstrate this process, Kang's 1934 novella Salt (Sogŭm) is examined through the protagonist's incongruous yet highly reflective cognitive capacity, which operates as the very mode of registering and responding to Manchukuo's internal contradictions. To the extent that Salt attempts to grasp the reality of a complicated capitalist imperialist society from a peripheral subject's compromised vantage point, Kang stands as a consequential voice for coming to terms with peripheral realism and its possibilities.


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pp. 449-473
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2020
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