The Politics of Remembrance and the Remembrance of Politics in Yisang’s Poetry
Yisang (1910–1937), one of the most renowned and best-studied poets of
Korea’s colonial period, is usually remembered as a bohemian, as an intoxicated
master of modernist language games. But a close reading of the poetologically
charged poems with which Yisang introduced himself to his audience as a Koreanlanguage poet in July 1933 reveals that the engagement with Korean history and
identity took center place in his own view of his poetical endeavors. However,
different from more simple-minded nationalist authors, Yisang recognized the doubleedged quality of “history” and “nation” — constituting both a treasure and a burden.
It is argued that this complication of the “love for the nation” instigated by his poetry
has been one of the reasons why the political layer of Yisang's poetry has kept being
forgotten — notwithstanding repeated rediscoveries — in the scholarship in recent
decades. More than anything, it is his distrust of a celebratory politics of
remembrance that makes a celebratory remembrance of Yisang’s politics so difficult.
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