Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

(14) The Moral of the Story: Ethics and Fiction in Postwar Japan and Korea

3/22/2018
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Coolidge, Mezzanine Level

In a recent public event, American writer George Saunders, commenting on the relationship between ethics and literature, noted that writing is most ethical when it jolts; when it allows a multiplicity of truths to exist in discomforting proximity; and when it creates characters that are as real as the readers themselves. In Japan and the Koreas, literature has proven to be productive in delivering discomforting truths that have emerged from the postwar era of nation-building, industrialization and globalization. This panel interrogates how narrative form and content can be both complicit in, and resistant to, ethical and moral projects. Zur looks at postwar North Korean young reader magazines to show how raw scientific data relied on visual and textual narrative to convey “correct” views of the world and to redefine the relationship between individuals, the collective, and nature, and by doing so attempted to re-structure the imagination of young readers in moral terms. Yi reads a novella of postwar repatriation—a time of return to an “original” state—as one that refuses to bend to the political desires and instead problematizes the relationship between empire and narrative. And Lee turns to Korean fiction that has narrated the most traumatic events of the postwar period to push the boundaries of fiction and truth-telling in times of overabundance of raw historical narrative. This panel locates the question of ethics and storytelling at the center, and thus touches on the relations between fiction and empire, imagination and politics, and history and truth. 

Presentations:

Dafna Zur

Stanford University, California

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Dafna Zur

Stanford University, California

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Dafna Zur

Stanford University, California

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Ji-Eun Lee

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

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Christina Yi

University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada

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Yu Jin Ko

Wellesley College, Massachusetts

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