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Testimonial Emotions: Witnessing and Feeling the 1990s in Eun Hee-kyung’s "The Bird’s Gift" (새의 선물)

Speaker

Hayun Cho (PhD candidate, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California)

This talk explores the feminist politics of emotion in a representative novel of 1990s South Korean women’s literature titled The Bird’s Gift (새의 선물, Saeŭi sŏnmul, 1995) by contemporary South Korean writer Eun Hee-kyung.

Examining how the novel’s representations of love and sadness provincialize heteropatriarchal state gender ideologies and imagine emergent feminist commons, the talk proposes that intertwined acts of watching and feeling read insurgent possibilities in disaffected, depressive femininity in the novel’s postcolonial temporalities spanning the 1960s and the 1990s.

The talk rethinks dominant paradigms of South Korean women’s literature and the newly democratic 1990s in South Korea through girlhood’s disaffected gaze in The Bird’s Gift, positioning emotion as a site politicization and of reading and writing worlds.

About the speaker:

Hayun Cho is a PhD Candidate at the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. Working at the intersections of Korean studies, gender and sexuality studies, affect studies, and postcolonial studies, her current research examines the relationship between textual representations of emotion and feminist consciousness in contemporary South Korean women’s cultural production.

Her first book project, Testimonial Emotions: Witnessing and Feeling the 1990s in South Korean Women’s Literature and Film, examines representations of feminine emotion rooted in everyday, domestic life as sites of feminist critique and truth-telling in South Korean women’s literature (yŏsŏng munhak) and women’s film (yŏsŏng yŏnghwa) in proximity to the 1990s. Her second book project will explore transpacific approaches to autotheory.

Hayun’s research has been supported by The Korea Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies, the Social Science Research Council, the USC Korean Studies Institute, and the USC Center for Transpacific Studies. She has published in the Journal of Korean Studies and has a translation forthcoming fall 2024 from Kaya Press. A Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry, Hayun’s first book of poetry is forthcoming spring 2025 from Abode Press.