Vernacular Itineraries:  Korean Letters from Family  to National Archive 

Ksenia Chizhova, Ph.D.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
W10,000 for non-members; W5,000 for student non-members; free for members

Vernacular Itineraries: 
Korean Letters from Family 
to National Archive 

Unsigned and unaddressed, containing just greetings and practicalities, vernacular Korean letters, exchanged between women and their kin, were anthologized and treasured by elite families of Chosōn Korea (1392-1910). Descendants revisited the familial epistles, rearranged them, and took them out to dry in the sunlight. The letters were touched rather than read and their materiality, imbued with sentimental, filial memories, wove links of affection and duty between generations. 

In post-1945 South Korea, the decolonizing and nation-building desire resurrected the interest in vernacular Korean culture, touted as the embodiment of national authenticity. Curiously, vernacular Korean letters the quintessence of the elite Chosōn culture were ignored and misinterpreted by scholars, remaining illegible in this nationalizing project. 

Tracing the itinerary of transition of vernacular Korean letters from family to national archives, this presentation uses the materiality of text and affect as a vantage point upon the insurmountable boundaries within the project of nationalized memory-making.  

Ksenia Chizhova is Assistant Professor of Korean Literature at Princeton University. She works on the history of emotions, women’s culture, and vernacular Korean calligraphy in the Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910) and early-twentieth-century Korea. Prior to beginning her work at Princeton, Ksenia received her Ph.D. from Columbia University and spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Korea Institute of Australian National University. 


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