“Poems of Flesh”: Rethinking Zainichi Women’s Literary History Through the Works of Sō Shūgetsu
Zainichi Korean women work a kimchi stall in the Ikaino neighborhood of Osaka.


Sō Shūgetsu
Zainichi women's literature
Zainichi literary history
transnational feminism

How to Cite

Clark, J. H. (2023). “Poems of Flesh”: Rethinking Zainichi Women’s Literary History Through the Works of Sō Shūgetsu. Transnational Asia, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.25615/ta.v5i1.73


Zainichi Korean literary histories of the late 1990s and early 2000s positioned the emergence of female author Yi Yangji in the 1980s as the beginning of Zainichi women’s writing, emphasizing her naturalized identity and thus positioning her at a remove from works by male authors that were interpreted as more overtly political. This development, whereby Zainichi women were circumscribed as bearers of cultural authenticity yet excluded from the realm of the political, can be traced back to the hollowed-out interiority of female characters in canonical works of Zainichi literature from the postwar period. This paper considers how the author Sō Shūgetsu (1944-2011) positioned herself outside of this system of Zainichi knowledge production, exploring the ways in which Sō’s idea of the jōsetsu (情説, as opposed to shōsetsu 小説, novel), an experimental literary form “written on/of flesh,” subverts the literary conventions established by her male predecessors and sets forth an alternative mode of writing that foregrounds the embodied, affective subjectivity of working women in the resident Korean neighborhood of Ikaino, Osaka. Sō’s critiques of the limited representations of women in the works of critically acclaimed Zainichi authors and the structures of oppression that worked to silence women within Zainichi society hint at the possibility of a radical rethinking of the criteria through which women’s writing was first incorporated into the Zainichi literary canon.

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