05/12 Ethan Waddell

Ph.D. Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

“Divided Soundscapes and Collective Song: Listening to Military Songs in Literary Fiction of the Korean War

Time: Friday, May 12, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location: Wieboldt 408

Please note the unusual location

Abstract: This chapter examines the use of military songs by Korean fiction writers to reconstruct the soundscapes of the Korean War (1950-1953). I define the act of collectively singing military songs as an active mode of reception. This receptive mode, I argue, was key both to the bodily materialization of national belonging in a divided nation and to the reproduction of ideological division. First, I use the novel T’aebaek Mountains (T’aebaek sanmaek, 1983-1989) by Cho Chŏng-nae to explore the pre-existing sonic conditions that Korean War-era military songs territorialized and the theoretical workarounds that the novel offers to the problematic modes of audition associated with the acousmatic situation. Next, I examine the form and function of military songs through a case study of the popular South Korean composition “Comrade-in-Arms, Good Night” (Chŏnuya, chal chara, 1951). Third, I investigate wartime scenes of civilians singing military songs in four works literary fiction by Ch’oe Chŏng-hŭi, Hwang Sun-wŏn, Yun Hŭng-gil, and Yi Mun-gu, respectively. Finally, I present two contrasting portrayals of military songs in the battlefield in the novels Ice Age (Pingha sidae, 1967-1968) and T’aebaek Mountains. Together, the chapter’s readings aim to show how various writers portrayed active reception of military songs in order to reflect, question, or even counter the divisive formation of collective Korean ethnic nationhood.

Presenter: Ethan Waddell is a PhD candidate studying modern and contemporary Korean literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at University of Chicago. His dissertation project, “Listening to South Korean Fiction through Popular Songs, 1950s-1970s,” aims to develop methods for reading modern and contemporary Korean literary fiction through popular music genres.

Discussant: Alex Murphy is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Japanese at Kenyon College, and will be starting as an Assistant Professor of Japanese at Clark University in Fall 2023. His research centers on modern Japan with a focus on the relationship between sound, language, and the body across literature, media and performance.

Elvin Meng

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