Discourses on Tradition

I found myself an early Christmas present, right in theatre section of Bandis and Luni’s, deep in the dungeons of COEX Mall.

If I could choose any single volume for instant translation, publication, and promotion, it might well be Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre by Hyun Mi PAEK [alt. romanized as BACK Hyun-mi] (백현미,『한국연극사와 전통 담론, 월인』, 연극과인간, 2009, 22,000 원).

Paek, professor for modern literature at Chonnam University (전남대학교) and author of A Study on the History of Korean Changgeuk (한국창극사연구, 태학사, 1997; a standard work on “traditional Korean opera”), takes the reader on a trip through the last hundred years of Korea’s political, cultural, literary, and of course theatrical history, all lead by the question: Who called what tradition (and for which reason)? The general thesis is that the concept of tradition (and related terminology) was used in different ways in different contexts. In other words, the study aims at the historization of tradition.

Drawing on a conundrum of academic and critical writing on theatre, Discourses on Tradition is not only a discussion of the topic matter, but also seems to serve well as an introduction to the world of theatre in modern Korea.

The book is a compilation of individual papers connected by a single research focus. While the chapters basically cover the 20th century in chronological order, the detailed structure makes for digestible parts, a handful of pages each. Because of the serialized publication history, reading might become a bit repetetive as theoretical premises and conclusions are stated again and again in each chapter. For someone like me who is not too experienced in reading scientific prose in Korean, however, this is actually a good thing.

Still, after having browsed not much more than the introductory chapters (with the dictionary on my laptop), my praise might come a bit early. But as the book looks promising and well worth a read, I will post my translation of the table of contents to give a little impression of what to expect. As the chapters have been published individually in various academic journals like 한국극예술연구 (“Korean Performing Arts Research”), 공연문화연구 (“Performance Culture Research”), or 한국연극학 (Korean Theater Studies), some English abstracts are available on the web (e.g. via the academic portal RISS), of which I include some excerpts.

One word on my translation of the title: 한국연극사와 전통 담론 literally translates as “Korea’s Drama/Theatre History and Tradition Discourse” and the author renders the respective phrase as “The Tradition Discourse in Korean Modern Drama History”. However, as Baek one main theses states that the discourses on tradition vary with time period and agents, the plural seems legitimate; furthermore, the study covers a wide range of debates about staging practices, making the term “theatre” a more inclusive choice.

Hyun Mi Paek, Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre

Foreword

I. Towards the Study of Discourses on Tradition in Korean Theatre (15-50)

1. Introduction
2. Modernity and the Transformation of Discourses on Tradition
3. Directions for the Study of Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre
4. Conclusion

II. The Period of Modern Enlightenment (1894–1910) (51-108)

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition
4. Conclusion

III. The 1930s (109-140)

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
4. Conclusion

IV. Discourses on Chunhyang-jeon in the Latter Half of the 1930s (141-180)

1. Introduction
2. The Use of Pansori in History Drama: Chunhyang-jeon by the Society for Research in Dramatic Art in Keijō
3. Dramatizations of Classical Literature with Western-Style Music and Japanese Dialogues: Chunhyang-jeon by the Tokyo Students Art Troupe in Tokyo
4. Early Korean Theatre in the Japanese Shingeki-Style, Integrating Kabuki: Chunhyang-jeon by the Japanese Ensemble Shinkyō in Tokyo
5. A Logic of Trans-National Homogeneity: The Performance of the Shinkyō Chunhyang-jeon in Keijō
6. Conclusion

V. Discourses on Tradition in the first Half of the 1940s (181-212)

1. Introduction
2. National Entertainment and the Problem of ‘National/Oriental Distinctiveness’ in Discussions of National Theatre
3. National Entertainment and the Popularization of Musical Theatre
4. ‘National and Oriental Distinctiveness’ and the Traditional Heritage of Musical Theatre
5. Conclusion

VI. The 1950s (213-240)

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Outskirts of the World of Theatre: Revival of Folklore and Research on Mask Theatre with Historico-Folkloristic Methods
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
5. Conclusion

VII. The 1960s (241-264)

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Borders of the Theatre World
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
5. Conclusion

VIII. The 1970s (265-312)

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Borders of the Theatre World
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
5. Conclusion

IX. The 1980s (313-362)

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Borders of the Theatre World
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
5. Conclusion

X. The 1990s (363-408)

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Borders of the Theatre World
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
5. Conclusion

XI. Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre and Modernity (409-447)

1. Introduction
2. The History of Korean Theatre and Modernity
3. Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre and Modernity
4. Discourses on Tradition and Anti-Modernity
5. Conclusion

Sources (449)

Bibliography (451-477)

***

Foreword

I. Towards the Study of Discourses on Tradition in Korean Theatre
「한국근현대연극사의 전통 담론 연구를 위한 도론 (導論) 」,『한국극예술연구』11집, 2000, 151~189면.

1. Introduction
2. Modernity and the Transformation of Discourses on Tradition

2.1 ‘Tradition Immanent to Traditional Society’ as a Result of Modernity’s Condition of Lack
[“The early folklorists and enlightening modernists considered that tradition disappeared in modern society, and that tradition is an obstacle of modernization.“]
2.2 ‘Tradition Transcendentally Connected to Modernity’ as a Result of the Criticism of Modernity
[This approach is split into two ‘schools’:]
—2.2.1 Modernity as the Foundation of Tradition and the Subjectivity of the Nation
[In this strand, the protagonists are “scholars who criticize the modernity based on anti-tradition in western countries, and nationalistic scholars who stress the national identity in postcolonized countries.“]
—2.2.2 Interaction between Western Modernity and Eastern Tradition
[This view is put forward by “scholars who criticize the western modernity and try to discover an alternative proposal in eastern traditional culture such as Confucian culture.“]
[These two tendencies (2.1 and 2.2) share the aim for an “universal concept about the world.“]
2.3 ‘Invented Tradition’ as a Result of Ideological Selections in Modern and Post-Modern Society
[In contrast to the other two tendencies, this one stresses “the individuality of tradition instead of the universality.“]
3. Directions for the Study of Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre
4. Conclusion

II. The Period of Modern Enlightenment (1894–1910)
「근대계몽기 한국연극사의 전통담론 연구 I」,『한국근대문학연구』, 18호 , 2008, 269~303면.
「근대계몽기 한국연극사의 전통 담론 연구 II」,『공연문화연구』, 18집, 2009, 347~377면.

[The period of Modern Enlightenment (근대계몽기) spans from the Gabo Reform to the annexation of Korea by Japan, thus the beginning of the colonial period]

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background

2.1 The Japanese Theatre Reform Movement and ‘New Theatre’
—2.1.1 Theatre Reform Movement [연극개량운동]
—2.1.2 New Theatre [신연극]
—2.1.3 Heroism [영웅론]
2.2 Liang Qichao’s ‘Revolutionary Literary Theories’ and the Reforms in Playwrighting
[Liang Qichao (梁啟超, 1873–1929), pseudonym: Rengong (任公), Chinese scholar, journalist, philosopher, and reformist]
—2.2.1 Liang Qichao’s Theories
—2.2.2 Heroism
2.3 The Project of Modernity in the Korean Empire and the Introduction of the Theatre System
[Korean Empire (대한제국): proclaimed by Emperor Gojong in 1897, succeeded the Joseon Dynasty, and ended with the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910]
3. Discourses on Tradition
3.1 Confuzian Ritual Music (예악관) and the Theory about the Corruption of Customs (상풍패속론)
3.2 Patriotic Enlightenment and Theatre Reform
—3.2.1 Theatre Reform
—3.2.2 Heroism and Theatre Reform
3.3 Colonial Penetration and Theories of New Theatre
—3.3.1 Theories of New Theatre
—3.3.2 (Anti-)Heroism and Eunsegye (“Silver World”)
[a production prepared by pro-Japanese, reform-oriented writer YI In-jik (이인직, 1862–1916), Eunsegye (은세계 / 銀世界) was meant as a new form of political theatre and, according to Andrew Killick, can be considered the first recorded performance of changgeuk (cf. Andrew Killick, “Korean ‘Ch’anggŭk’ Opera: Its Origins and Its Origin Myth”, Asian Music 33.2, 2002)]
4. Conclusion

III. The 1930s
「1930년대 전통연극론 연구」,『이화어문논집』, 15집, 1997, 79~105면.

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre

3.1 The Theory on the Popularism of Folk Theatre
3.2 Theories on the Heritage of Pansori and Changgeuk
[the ‘traditional one-man opera’ pansori (판소리), a genre which features long folk tales retold and sung by a solo performer, served as the basis for changgeuk (창극 / 唱劇), a hybrid ‘traditionesque’ operatic form that introduced multiple actor-singers, stage design, and new plots. (cf. Killick, “Korean ‘Ch’anggŭk’ Opera)]
4. Conclusion

IV. Discourses on Chunhyang-jeon in the Latter Half of the 1930s
「민족적 전통과 동양적 전통 (1930년대 후반 경성과 동경에서의〈춘향전)공연을 중심으로)」,『현대문학이론연구』23집, 2004, 213~245면.

1. Introduction
2. The Use of Pansori in History Drama: Chunhyang-jeon by the Society for Research in Dramatic Art in Keijō
[Society for Research in Dramatic Art (극예술연구회, alt.: Dramatic Art Study Association), founded by HONG Hae-sŏng (홍해성) in 1931 (cf. Saejoon Oh, The Implantation of Western Theatre in Korea: Hong Hae-sŏng (1994–1957), Korea’s First Director, PhD-diss., Louisiana State U, 2007);
Keijō (경성, 京城), Japanese name for the Korean capital during colonial times, nowadays Seoul]

3. Dramatizations of Classical Literature with Western-Style Music and Japanese Dialogues: Chunhyang-jeon by the Tokyo Students Art Troupe in Tokyo
[Tokyo Students Art Troupe (동경학생예술좌), founded by Korean students in Japan in 1934]
4. Early Korean Theatre in the Japanese Shingeki-Style, Integrating Kabuki: Chunhyang-jeon by the Japanese Ensemble Shinkyō in Tokyo
[Shinkyō Gekidan (新協劇團, lit. “new cooperation theatre company”), jap. theatre group founded by Murayama Tomoyoshi (村山知義) in 1934, one of the leading left-wing ensembles (cf. Serk-Bae Suh, “Treacherous Translation: The 1938 Japanese-Language Theatrical Version of the Korean Tale Ch’unhyangjŏn“, positions 18.1, 2010)]
4.1 Jang Hyeok-ju’s Drama Chunhyang-jeon and Murayama Tomoyoshi’s Performance Script
[Jang Hyeok-ju (장혁주, 1905–1998), Korean writer and literary critic, first successes in Imperial Japan]
4.2 The Combination of Elements from Kabuki and Shingeki
[kabuki (歌舞伎), major urban commercial theatre genre in Japan; shingeki (新劇, lit. “new theatre”), realistic, Western-based modern drama (cf. The Cambridge Guide to Asian Theatre, 1993]
4.3 The Beginning of ‘Historical Drama Based on Eastern Classics’ in Japanese Shingeki
5. A Logic of Trans-National Homogeneity: The Performance of the Shinkyō Chunhyang-jeon in Keijō
6. Conclusion

V. Discourses on Tradition in the first Half of the 1940s
「 “국민적 오락”과 “민족적 특수성” – 일제 말기 악극의 경우”」,『공연문화연구』11집, 2005, 157~187면.

1. Introduction
2. National Entertainment and the Problem of ‘National/Oriental Distinctiveness’ in Discussions of National Theatre
2.1 The Systematization of National Entertainment
2.2 Exhaltation of ‘National/Oriental Distinctiveness’
3. National Entertainment and the Popularization of Musical Theatre
4. ‘National and Oriental Distinctiveness’ and the Traditional Heritage of Musical Theatre
4.1 Performances of the Japanese Operetta Ensemble ‘Bochong’ (寶塚) in Choseon and the Proliferation of Musical Theatre Based on Material from National Tradition
4.2 Oriental Legends and the Production Gyeon-u and Jik-nyeo by the Korean Operetta Ensemble Ramira
[Gyeon-u and Jik-nyeo (견우직녀 / 牽牛織女, aka “The cowherd and the weaver girl”), a cosmic legend of two separated lovers, symbolized by the constellation between the stars Vega and Altair; the story spawned seasonal festivals in Korea (칠석, Chilseok) as well as China (七夕, Qixi) and Japan (七夕, Tanabata)]
5. Conclusion

VI. The 1950s
「1950, 60년대 한국연극사의 전통 담론 연구」,『한국연극학』14호, 2000, 45~87면.

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Outskirts of the World of Theatre: Revival of Folklore and Research on Mask Theatre with Historico-Folkloristic Methods
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
4.1 Theories of Mask and Folk Theatre as ‘Our Bowl’ [우리 그릇]
4.2 Theories of Changgeuk as National Theatre
5. Conclusion

VII. The 1960s
「1950, 60년대 한국연극사의 전통 담론 연구」,『한국연극학』14호, 2000, 45~87면.

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Borders of the Theatre World
3.1 The Discussion of the Genre of Pansori and Research on the Namsadang Troupes’ Games
[namsadang (남사당), groups of itinerant (mostly male) entertainers who, in pre-modern Korea, presented mask plays, puppet theatre, acrobatics etc. on marketplaces and at other public locations]
3.2 The Application of Tradition in the Government’s ‘National Democracy’
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
4.1 Discussions about the Character of Changgeuk and Korean-style Musicals
4.2 The Application of Tradition in the ‘Resistant Nationalism’ at Universities
5. Conclusion

VIII. The 1970s
「1970년대 한국연극사의 전통담론 연구」,『한국극예술연구』, 151~199면.

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Borders of the Theatre World
3.1 The Emphasis of Aesthetic Consciousness in Structuralist Research
3.2 The Emphasis of Loyalty and Filial Piety in the Government’s Cultural Politics
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
4.1 Discussions on the Transformation of Folk Theatre into Classical Theatre
4.2 Discussions on the Clash between Folk Theatre and Experimental Theatre
4.3 Discussions on Minjokgeuk
[minjokgeuk (민족극, lit. “national theatre), a form of theatre that ” utilizes elements of ‘indigenous’ cultures and searches for ‘the Korean ethnic (arche)type’ as ‘the ideal Korean type’ or ‘genuine Korean-ness’ for the reconstruction of ‘the Korean ethnic community.'” (cf. Gang-Im Lee, Directing Koreanness: Directors and Playwrights under the National Flag, 1970-2000, PhD-diss., U of Pittsburgh, 2008)]
4.4 The Minjung-Consciousness in the Inheritance of Popular Theatre and the Madanggeuk Movement
[minjung (민중, lit. “the masses of [common] people”), often used as an umbrella term for various social movements that “arose in the 1970s and 1980s in response to the repressive authoritarian regime and grew out of a widespread sense that the nation’s ‘failed history’ left Korean identity profoundly incomplete.” (cf. Namhee Lee, The Making of Minjung: Democracy and the Politics of Representation in South Korea, 2007);
“popular theatre” (연희, lit. “performing arts”), usually refers to the performances of pre-modern itinerant troupes of entertainers (namsadang, see above);
madanggeuk (마당극, lit. “village-square theatre”), usually conceived as a direct successor of pre-modern popular theatre (or rather “a synthesis and amalgamation of dramaturgical and aesthetic elements” thereof), albeit with a political agenda: Beginning in the 1970s as a spectacular form of social protest, “by the 1980s [madanggeuk] had assumed an alternative, even utopian, form of cultural and political expression. It became a meeting ground of avant-garde art, social movement, and expressions of new subjectivities.” (cf. Namhee Lee, “Between Indeterminacy and Radical Critique: Madang-gŭk, Ritual, and Protest”, positions 11.3, 2003)]

5. Conclusion

IX. The 1980s
「1980년대 한국연극의 전통담론 연구」,『한국극예술연구』, 183~229면.

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Borders of the Theatre World
3.1 Expansion of the Research on the Theatricality of Pansori and Shamanistic Ritual
3.2 Revitalization of the Government’s Cultural Policy and the Promotion of Local Festivals
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
4.1 Opposition and Interpenetration in Theatre Theory around Madanggeuk (Madang-Gut-Rituals, Minjokgeuk)
—4.1.1 Keywords of Madanggeuk: Stylistic Principles of Traditional Popular Theatre and Agency of the Audience, the Consciousness of the Masses and Social Movement
—4.1.2 The Emphasis of the Opposition between Style and Ideology in Madanggeuk
—4.1.3 Criticism of the Interpenetration of Style and Ideology in Madanggeuk
—4.1.4 The Transgression of Madanggeuk-Style, Confrontation with the Expansion of Minjokgeuk
4.2 The Specialization of Experimental Theatre Groups in the Inheritance of Traditional Popular Theatre: Enlightenment, Play, Totalism
4.3 Professionalization of Traditional Popular Theatre and the Consolidation of its Musical/Theatrical-Characteristics
4.4 Festivals based on Institutionalized Traditional Popular Theatre
4.5 Third World Theatre and Cultural Identity
5. Conclusion

X. The 1990s
「1990년대 한국연극사의 전통담론 연구」,『한국극예술연구』, 165~216면.

1. Introduction
2. Historical Background
3. Discourses on Tradition at the Borders of the Theatre World
3.1 Global Universality and Modern Relics, Popular Theatre at the Royal Court, and Local
3.2 The Globalisation of the Culture Industry and Traditional Popular Theatre as a Cultural Asset
4. Discourses on Tradition in the World of Theatre
4.1 The Re-Discovery of Confuzian Tradition and the Postmodern Application of Tradition in Theatre
4.2 The Discovery of Asia and the Search for Cultural Reciprocity
4.3 The Axis of Stylistic and Ideological Distinctiveness
4.4 The Appropriateness of Transmission and the Popular Appeal of Nostalgia
5. Conclusion

XI. Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre and Modernity
「한국근현대연극사의 전통 담론과 근대성」,『한국극예술연구』, 321~360면.

1. Introduction
2. The History of Korean Theatre and Modernity
2.1 Critique of the Theory on the Modernity of the History of Korean Theatre
2.2 Tradition and the Omnipresence and Regionality of Modernity
3. Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre and Modernity
3.1 Discourses on Tradition and National/Oriental Modernity
—3.1.1 Colonial Modernity, Nationalism/Orientalism, and Tradition
—3.1.2 Post-Colonial Modernity, Nationalism/Orientalism, and Tradition
3.2 Discourses on Tradition and Artistic Modernity
—3.2.1 Realist Theatre and the Consciousness of Enlightenment
—3.2.2 Anti-Realist Theatre and Critical Realism
—3.2.3 Modernist Identity and the Choices of Post-Modernism
4. Discourses on Tradition and Anti-Modernity
5. Conclusion

Sources

Bibliography

— 17 Nov. 2010 (水)

  • 백현미,『한국연극사와 전통 담론』, 연극과인간, 2009.
  • PAEK Hyun Mi [Paek Hyŏn-mi], Discourses on Tradition in the History of Korean Theatre, Seoul: Yeongeuk-gwa Ingan (Theatre and Humanity), 2009 (477 pp.).

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in Exercises in Translation, Readings in Secondary Literature. Bookmark the permalink.

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