Rethinking World Literature through the Relations between Russian and East Asian Literatures


Thursday, April 12, 2018, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Korea Colloquium; co-sponsored by Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies
4/12 KC Poster

Heekyoung Cho
Associate Professor, Department of Asian Languages & Literature, University of Washington

Heekyoung Cho is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Washington. She is the author of Translation’s Forgotten History: Russian Literature, Japanese Mediation, and the Formation of Modern Korean Literature (Harvard University Asia Center, 2016). Her articles discuss topics on translation and the creation of modern fiction, translation and censorship, serial publication, and webcomics. She is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and the American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship. Her current research focuses on seriality in cultural production both in old and new media including digital serialization and transmedial production.

Chaired by Si Nae Park, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Based on the historical and cultural connections between Russia/Soviet and East Asia, this talk discusses how literary relations can complicate the current discussion of “world literature.” During the early twentieth century, Russian literature was the most favored among the many foreign literatures that East Asian intellectuals imported. Though we may find many reasons for this, one aspect of Russian literature highlighted repeatedly in its East Asian reception is its social mission. Literature takes on a role and responsibility beyond its role as an aesthetic product in societies where the state strictly regulates political speech and activity. Incorporating Russia as an explanatory tool for East Asian literatures lets us understand their shared desires for socially committed literature, a literature that critiques the present and envisions different futures. This shared aspiration found in East Asian literatures does not emerge so readily when we examine individual relations between Russia and one or another East Asian culture or when we address them in relation to Western European and American literatures. The case of Russian and East Asian literary relations refutes the diffusionist model of world literature and the perspective that sees literary works being in competitive relations of national literatures.

Generously supported by the Min Young-Chul Memorial Fund at the Korea Institute.