Ewha-Yale Conference: “Korean Literature, Art, and Film from 1910 to 1945”

This weekend I will be taking part in a conference coordinated by Ewha Women's University in South Korea and Yale University. Entitled “Korean Literature, Art, and Film from 1910 to 1945” that is being held at Ewha. A number of Yale and Ewha faculty will be taking part, as well as a former student of mine, Naoki Yamamoto, who is at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While I am not an expert on Korean cinema, I hope in my paper, "Colonial Era Korean Cinema and the Problem of Internalization," to pose some questions about the relation of film form to colonial subjectivity. Here is the abstract of my talk:

The internalization of the values of the colonizers in the mind of the colonized—the colonization of the mind—can be as crucial to the perpetuation of colonialism as the violence of legal or military force. I would like to analyze some colonial era films that I think pose some interesting questions about the problem of internalization during Japan’s colonization of Korea. One could see in films like Military Train (1938) or Volunteer (1941) examples of characters internalizing the voices or visions of Japanese empire. Yet I wonder if these films do not also show us complications in these narratives of internalization. First, they may seem in part to internalize Japanese film language or style, but given fraught debates in Japan over what constituted a national cinema, Koreans were at best internalizing a cinema that Japanese authorities themselves had not internalized as sufficient to represent the modern Japanese nation. This situation may affect the entire phenomenon of internalization. What I am curious about is less whether there was internalization of Japanese cinema or not, than the shape of the “internal” within the colonial spatial dynamics: what the cinema tells us about the fraught nature of internalization itself, for instance about how the boundaries between internal and external are demarcated or rendered ambiguous, about the construction or deconstruction of internalized subjects, and the contradictions of representing internal states through external means like cinema. I wonder if we cannot hypothesize that, if colonial era Korean cinema seems often concerned with internal states, it is less because it is opening up the space that will be internalized by the colonial cinema, than it is exhibiting the cracks and contradictions in internalization itself and the problems of colonial subjectivity. I thus was particularly interested in the number of stories, such as Fisherman’s Fire (1939), where gazes mattered, but which were often presented without point of view structures, or through point of view editing or eyeline matches that are considered wrong according to the rules of classical Hollywood cinema.

You can check out the schedule at the Yale CEAS site.

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