Socialist doctrines had an important influence on Korean writers and intellectuals of the early twentieth century. From the 1910s through the 1940s, a veritable wave of anarchist, Marxist, nationalist, and feminist leftist groups swept the cultural scene with differing agendas as well as shared demands for equality and social justice. In The Proletarian Wave, Sunyoung Park reconstructs the complex mosaic of colonial leftist culture by focusing on literature as its most fertile and enduring expression. The book combines a general overview of the literary left with the intellectual portraits of four writers whose works exemplify the stylistic range and colonial inflection of socialist culture in a rapidly modernizing Korea. Bridging Marxist theory and postcolonial studies, Park confronts Western preconceptions about third-world socialist cultures while interrogating modern cultural history from a post–Cold War global perspective.
The Proletarian Wave provides the first historical account in English of the complex interrelations of literature and socialist ideology in colonial Korea. It details the origins, development, and influence of a movement that has shaped twentieth-century Korean politics and aesthetics alike through an analysis that simultaneously engages some of the most debated and pressing issues of literary historiography, Marxist criticism, and postcolonial cultural studies.
A major contribution to the scholarship on culture, capitalism, and colonialism in modern Korea. Park retrieves a critical history long suppressed by the political orthodoxies of North and South Korea and makes an eloquent case for the proletarian wave’s continued importance in our current postcolonial, ‘post-ideological’ age.
Those interested in the social movements of the twentieth century have been aware of the importance of Korea’s radical culture. Now Park’s pathbreaking critical history of Korea’s proletarian wave offers a powerful and original paradigm for a postcolonial cultural studies that captures the ways the traveling theories of Marxism, anarchism, feminism, nationalism, Pan-Asianism, and anticolonialism were embodied and remade in the novels and stories of Korea’s vernacular modernity.
The Proletarian Wave masterfully illustrates how the Korean cultural left exceeded the spatial boundaries of colonial Korea and how Japan’s colonial oppression acted as the paradoxical constituent condition prompting Korean intellectuals to translate the promise of socialism to meet the constraints of a harsh colonial environment. What will be so enduring in Park’s retrieval of this overlooked history is the certainty that her book will find its own place in the afterlife of the colonial cultural left.
The Proletarian Wave is a magisterial book that broadens, complicates, and innovates our understanding of the leftist thought and culture of Korea under Japanese rule. A soon-to-be Korean studies classic, it further extends its contribution to the transnational scholarship on such issues as the globalization of Marxism and socialist thought, (semi-) colonial capitalization, colonial and imperial modernities outside of Euro-America, and feminist socialist aesthetics.
- 348 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
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