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The Task and Risk of Translating Classical Korean sijo: Yun Sŏndo and Hwang Chini

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses an important issue in Korean Studies. The share of recognition classical Korean literature possesses in the global republic of letters is unimpressive when compared to other national literatures. This is due to a large extent to an absolute dearth of appealing translations of its important works into English. The chapter looks in more detail at translation issues, focusing on translations of two sijo in particular. Of the lyricists (Dante and Boccaccio) from the post-han'gŭl Chosŏn era have demonstrated the poetic force of vernacular Korean in a manner comparable to the contributions of Petrarch or Chaucer to their native tongue, one is a woman, a kisaeng; the other is Yun Sŏndo. But Hwang Chini embodies all that is unique as well as universal about Korean classical poetry, its sustained melody, its compelling emotional thrust, and its sensuously concrete morphology, as superbly as Yun Sŏndo.

Keywords: classical Korean literature; Hwang Chini; Petrarch; post-han'gŭl Chosŏn era; Yun Sŏndo



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