Alex Heeyeon Kil is a writer, independent researcher, and student of literature based in Seoul and Amsterdam. Her research addresses topics of memory studies, diaspora studies, topology, sex work, etc. Currently, Alex is pursuing literary studies at the University of Amsterdam.

CV is available upon request.
  • Read her writer's statement here.

      The following paper argues that the secular coexists with the religious in the production and the performance of the York Corpus Christi Plays##(1)##. Focusing on the “Crucifixion” pageant, the paper proposes to rethink the communality of the play in terms of performativity and textual instability. More specifically, the concept of performativity—that reality is both constructed and reconstructed; and individuals constituted and reconstituted through performance—provides the framework to think about how the performance of York Cycle allows such construction and constitution of the community of York. Textual instability, on the other hand, opens up an opportunity for the community and the text of Cycle Plays to be mutually and simultaneously be constituted together. Furthermore, while the plays themselves date back to circa 1425, that is, when “the plays of the passion sequence were extensively revised by a gifted playwright referred to by scholars as the York Realist” (Norton Anthology 439), both Richard Beadle (1996) and Pamela M. King (2006) understands the Cycle Plays to have flourished post Black Death. Taking the point of departure from here and positioning such discussion in post Black Death context, this paper demonstrates that the guild-centered production and the performance of York Cycle Plays manifest an interdependency and coexistence between the religious and the secular—and the religious and the human community—and that this becomes a phenomenon that signals at a modest deconstruction of that binary between the secular versus the religious. 

      Focusing on the humane aspects of the York Corpus Christi Plays has recently been a main point of critical discussion regarding the Cycle. Susan Nakley, for instance, focalizes the argument in the universalization of the physical pain of crucifixion, which peculiarly allows the audience to identify with the human-God that is Jesus Christ##(2)##. Andreea Boboc, on the other hand, focuses the argument in the work and labor of the guild members that go into the production of the festival. Indeed, as Boboc argues, there are ways in which the production of the York Cycle lets “community, historically divided by the politics of labor, [unify] onstage through spiritual capitalism, which solidifies the interdependency of all laypeople” (266). Boboc further states that by highlighting work and salvation as core Christian values, “the plays avoid touching on controversial doctrinal points” (266). In other words, the plays have found a safe-ground where sensitive religious controversies are left unaddressed, which helps the Corpus Christi remain as a celebratory occasion, that is, until the plays were altogether banned in the mid 1500s. Other notable works of research also increasingly focus more on the humane aspects of the Cycle, rather than the aspects related to their religiosity. Beadle states that the Cycle Plays are a “complex expression of the community’s character” (86). Sarah Beckwith, focusing on the social spatiality of the city-theater itself, states that Corpus Christi performers’ 

While Beadle focuses on the outward expression of the communal characteristic and Beckwith more on the internal reflections of the community, both scholars share a significant understanding together in that they both concentrate their discussion on the communality of the York Cycle. This is also relevant to Boboc, as the co-working that is integral in the production of the festival acts as a unifier, and that being a unifier of community. King has made a turn towards the aspect of “popular worship” itself##(3)##. In her book The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City, King explains the relationship between the city and the church through the York Cycle and within this historicizes the concept of Worship. King argues, “Worship held two related senses for the medieval civic community, conveying, as well as ‘religious observation’, the sense of ‘civic honour’. The York Cycle is central to both” (5). This is critical, that the worship is not merely religious, but also civic: that is, secular. The fact the York Cycle is central to both manifests that the religious and the secular are not entirely independent from one another. Through the medieval understanding of the word, the two seemingly incompatible concepts are shown to be in fact embodied by the one word of “worship”. 

      Then, worship, as an event that is both religious and civic, manifests that the medieval epistemology does not separate the two seemingly opposing ideas of religiosity and secularity. While this may attest that religious powers were so central to the everyday lives that religion is inseparable from the secular, communal, earthly and the physical life in medieval England, there are ways to think about this issue in a way that does not emphasize the absolute dominance of one power over another. In other words, it can be argued that secular life has an identifiable area which works entangled with the religious life. The context of post Black Death flourishing of the York Cycle becomes critical here. The collective trauma of the mass death during the Plague Years is not irrelevant to the zeal over “public worship” that is the festivities of the York Cycle. The main question here then, is what effect the Plays have on the community, if realities are performatively transfigured. This is important in two ways: first, in that the performances were produced communally through different guild organizations; second, in that these performances flourished after the Plague Years. Taking these historical circumstances into consideration, it seems that there are social and cultural functions in organizing the play as a community, which is extended to a recovering function from the memories of Black Death. In this, it becomes apparent that despite its religious origins and goals, there also was a side effect of restoring communal order and human connections. Furthermore, it is important that the York Plays is not a self-contained perfect body of work but rather has a pretextual, “stage-to-page” dynamic ##(4)##. The paper understands the pre-textuality to open up a room for the performers to be interactive with the script. In that not only the performance constitutes the community but also that community constitutes the text as well, the Cycle Plays become truly interactive. Adding on to the recent critical focus of the communality of the York Cycle, this paper argues that religiosity and communality are in fact more interdependent, and that not one can be said to precede the other.


언니들은 모여 앉아 함께 담배를 피우고 날아가는 풍선들을 바라보며 웃었다. 이주여성들은 손뼉치고 환호하며 함께 노래를 부르고 춤을 췄다. 그들이 어떤 과거를 살았던지 간에, 그리고 오늘도 어떤 곳으로 출근하던지 간에, 그들의 웃음은 말한다. 자신들이 있다고, 무서운 과거를 살았지만 지금도 살아 있다고. 그리고 그 과거가 다른 얼굴로 지속되고 있다고. 내가 있고 우리가 있다는 것. 두레방이 있다는 것. 그것 자체가 그들의 존재를 큰 목소리로 알린다. 그것 자체가 이미 큰 힘이다.

* This piece was previously published on       

       미국의 군사제국주의. 길기도 긴 말이다. 나와는 아무런 상관도 없는, 텅 빈 단어인 것 같다. 하품이 나오는 신문 기사나 억지로 읽어야 하는 논문에나 등장할 것 같다.

       그렇다면 이건 어떨까? 나의 남자친구는 미군이다. 우리는 데이팅 어플에서 만났다. 걔를 처음 만난 날, 걔는 평택의 캠프 험프리스가 미국 바깥에 있는 미군기지 중 가장 크다고 말해줬다. 신기했고 조금은 믿어지지 않았다. 서울 바깥에, 겨우 기차로 40분만 가면 있는 곳에 그렇게 큰 규모의 중요한 군사기지가 있는 것이 이상했다. 그날 저녁 나는 집으로 돌아와 침대에 누워 그 어플을 다시 켰다. 그랬더니 계속 스크린에 뜨는 수많은 미군들이 보였다. 그렇구나. 내 연애사에 미국의 군사주의가 이미 들어와 있었다.

       몇 주가 지나서 걔를 만나러 평택에 갔다. 저녁을 먹고 어떤 바에 갔는데, 사장 언니가 나를 불렀다. 

당시의 나는 살짝 고민도 해보았다. 돈도 없고 밤에 하는 일이니까 시급도 높을 것 같았다. 당시의 나는 정말 아무것도 몰랐다. 사장 언니가 나한테 시키려고 했던 일이 미군들에게 예쁘게 웃어주면서 술을 파는 것이었다는 사실을 나중에 알았다. 

       그 때 나는 놀랐다. 말로만 듣던 미군 상대 클럽에서 미군을 상대하는 여성. 그 접대하는 직업과 그 세계가 나한테 이렇게 가까이 들어올 수 있구나. 이게 나랑 이렇게 가깝구나. 어떻게 여태까지 그 세계를 보지 못하고 지냈지. 한국에 있는 미군들의 존재가 이렇게 유령처럼 가깝게 깃들어 있구나. 서울에서 나고 자란 내게, 경기도의 기지촌은 새로운 세계였다. 사장 언니의 말을 이해하고 나서, 나는 위험해진 기분이었다. 그 날 이후 나는 그동안 보지 못했던 것을 보게 되었다. 험프리스 안에서 나를 쳐다보는 카투사 동생들의 깔보는 시선을 보았다. PX에서 일하시는 캐셔 분들의 탐탁치 않아 하는 태도를 보았다. 머리가 짧고 피부색이 어두운 군인이랑 걸어다니던 서울의 거리에서도, 나를 쳐다보는 불편한 눈길들을 느꼈다. 서울의 이름난 대학에서 똑똑하다는 소리를 들으며 공부하며 살았는데, 갑자기 “미군을 사귀는 여자애” 이름표가 붙고 나의 위치가 달라지는 것을 느꼈다. 

       한편으로는 시선을 감내하며 자발적으로 연애를 할 수 있는 나의 특권 또한 깨달았다. 나는 당시에 중소기업에서 번역 일을 하고 있었는데, 업무 특성상 빈 시간이 많았다. 나는 정말 많은 시간을 혼자 기지촌에 대해서 읽으며 보냈다. 놀라운 수치들을 보았고, 충격적인 증언들을 읽었다. 수도 없이 많은 논문을 읽었지만, 긴 시간 잊혀졌거나 지워진 역사였기 때문에 기지촌의 생태를 이해하기가 어려웠다. 글로만 기지촌을 알아가는 것이 답답했다. 회사를 그만두고 두레방에서 자원봉사를 하고 싶다는 생각이 들었다. 진짜로 기지촌의 문제들을 위해서 그리고 그 문제들 속에서 일하는 사람들을 만나고 싶었다. 나는 두레방에 전화를 걸었고, 그렇게 나는 올해의 두레방 데이에 초대받았다. 

       다가온 두레방 데이. 나는 가기 전날에 나눠먹을 음식을 만들면서 준비했다. 무엇을 기대해야 할 지 전혀 몰랐기 때문에 긴장도 되고 걱정도 되었다. 실례를 하면 어쩌나, 어떻게 행동해야 하나, 모르겠는 것이 너무 많았다. 일찍 자고, 일찍 일어나서 의정부로 향했다. 

       행사의 세팅을 돕고 나서, 옆 골목길에 쭈뼛쭈뼛 서서 담배를 입에 물었다. 그때 내게 들려오는 것은 “이리 와서 같이 피워,” 하는 언니들의 목소리였다. 행사가 시작하고 나서 또 쭈뼛쭈뼛 음식을 가져와서 이걸 어디서 먹지, 했다. 그때도, “이리 와서 같이 먹어요,” 필리핀 언니들이 나를 불러줬다. 밥을 먹고, 장터에서 물건을 팔고, 공연들을 보고, 정신 없이 하루가 지나갔다. 그리고 내가 글에서 읽던 슬픔이 넘치던 기지촌의 느낌과 두레방 데이에서 만난 이들은 달랐다. 그 날은 힘이 넘쳤고, 나는 피곤했지만 그만큼 큰 에너지를 받았다. 그래서 두레방에 대한 나의 거침없는 첫인상은 이 세상에 이렇게 멋지고 행복한 장소가 있을까, 하는 것이다. 물론 이곳은 멋진 것 혹은 아름다운 것과는 거리가 멀다. 기지촌의 전성기때부터 일하셨던 언니들, 그리고 지금도 일하고 있는 수많은 이주여성들의 절박함이 있는 곳이다. 착취적인 구조에서 일했고 일하는 사람들, 그 안에서 생기는 빠져나가기 힘든 문제들을 위해 존재하는 곳이 두레방이다. 그러나 두레방 데이에서 내가 가장 강렬하게 볼 수 있었던 것은, 함께 한다는 것의 신나는 기분이었다.

       기지촌은 함께 하지 않으면 살아남기도 이해하기도 힘든 공간이다.  한정된 공간에서 한정된 사람들끼리만 아는 과거를 살았고 기억을 나눌 수 있는 장소이다. 그래서 두레방의 함께는 특별하다. 우리는 우리의 고통을 나누면서 공동체가 된다. 나의 안전을 보장해줄 수 있는 공동체는 나의 존재에도 필수적이다. 두레방에서 함께가 되는 그 이들은 보이지 않고, 잊혀지고, 그것도 아니면 지워진 이들이다. 그들은 함께 있지 않으면 어둠 속으로, 과거 속으로 사라질 이들이다. 함께 자신의 이야기를 나누지 않으면, 공동체의 안락함도 없고 나의 존재를 보장해줄 이들도 없다. 우리는 기지촌의 과거와 현재를 미래에도 계속 기억해야 하기 때문에, 두레방의 함께를 꼭 지켜야 한다. 그러므로 두레방 데이에서 내가 본 것은 슬픔과 아픔보다는 함께의 힘이다. 안전한 장소에서 나의 존재를 보장받을 수 있다는 사실이 주는 안도감이다. 

       언니들은 모여 앉아 함께 담배를 피우고 날아가는 풍선들을 바라보며 웃었다. 이주여성들은 손뼉치고 환호하며 함께 노래를 부르고 춤을 췄다. 그들이 어떤 과거를 살았던지 간에, 그리고 오늘도 어떤 곳으로 출근하던지 간에, 그들의 웃음은 말한다. 자신들이 있다고, 무서운 과거를 살았지만 지금도 살아 있다고. 그리고 그 과거가 다른 얼굴로 지속되고 있다고. 내가 있고 우리가 있다는 것. 두레방이 있다는 것. 그것 자체가 그들의 존재를 큰 목소리로 알린다. 그것 자체가 이미 큰 힘이다.

(Fall 2019)


       2015년 6월 22일, 나는 아우슈비츠에 갔다. 1940년 6월, 폴란드를 점령한 지 9개월 만에 독일군은 오슈비엥침의 아우슈비츠를 일단 폴란드 정치범을 위한 수용소로 사용하기 시작한다. 1943년 6월, 아우슈비츠 II-비르케나우의 가스실 네 개는 모두 가동 중에 있었다. 내가 아우슈비츠를 간 날은 해가 화창했다. 크라쿠프에 있던 나흘 중 가장 좋았던 날씨. 6월인데 마치 초봄처럼, 잔디밭에 민들레가 잔뜩 있었다. 1940년에도 그랬을까.

       아우슈비츠는 어떤 곳인가. 아우슈비츠는 하나의 장소가 아니다. 비르케나우라고 불리는 제일 큰 수용소인 아우슈비츠 II를 포함해 세 군데가 있다. 우리가 많이 알고 있는 곳은 I과 II. 잘 보존된 아우슈비츠 I에 비해 비르케나우는 대부분 폭발 당했다. 자신들의 악행을 감추려 했던 나치들에 의해. 2차대전 당시에 있던 수용소 중 가장 큰 곳이면서, 유대인 학살의 상징 같기도 한 곳이다. 현재의 추정 상으로는 110만 명이 아우슈비츠에서 살해당했다고 한다. 그 중 90%는 유대인이다. 하지만 그건 추정일 뿐, 정확히 몇 명이 사람이 죽었는지 알기는 아마 불가능할 것이다. 애초에 소련군의 발표에서는 400만 명이 죽었다고 했다. 어차피 죽이려고 데려왔는데, 숫자를 기록해 놓는 건 아무짝에도 쓸모가 없었겠지. 게다가 조금 많이 데리고 왔어야지 말이다. 다만 소련군이 아우슈비츠를 해방시켰을 때, 남자 옷 370,000벌과 여자 옷 837,000개를 찾았다고 한다. 이게 가장 충격적인 부분도 아니다. 소련군은 머리카락도 찾았다. 시체에서, 수감자에서 잘라낸 머리카락은 8.5톤에 달한다. 아우슈비츠에서 가장 ‘활발히’ 학살을 진행했을 때는 1944년 5월 경이다. 5월 14일, 44만 명의 헝가리계 유대인이 비르케나우에 도착했고 아주 짧은 순간의 선택 과정을 지나 여자, 어린이, 노인 대부분이 가스실로 향했다. ‘샤워를 하러’말이다. 아우슈비츠는 사람을 고문하고 가둬두려 이용된 장소가 아니다. 아우슈비츠는 가장 효율적이고 조용하게 사람을 죽이려 이용된 장소이다. 헝가리에서 유대인이 쏟아져 들어오자 가스실과 더 가깝게 도착하도록 기찻길을 연장해서 놓았을 정도이다. 정말로, 아우슈비츠의 잔인성을 이해하기란 불가능하다. 

       나는 아우슈비츠에 가기 전날 예약을 취소할까 진지하게 고민했다. 부다페스트에서 공산주의 시절 썼던 지하 감옥 같은 곳엘 갔는데 그때 들어가자마자 숨이 막히고 저절로 눈물이 나올 정도로 너무 무서워서 경비 할아버지 손을 잡고 나 제발 밖에 데려다 달라고 애원했던 적이 있다. 내가 어릴 때 다녔던 유치원은 잠시 정신이 나갔었는지 여섯 살짜리 꼬마들을 데리고 서대문형무소로 소풍을 가서 밀랍인형들이 고문당하는 장면을 보여줬었다. 한 한 달 동안 잠을 못 잤던 기억이 난다. 하여튼 이런저런 끔찍한 기억들이 나서, 어쩌면 가봤자 들어가지도 못하고 버스에 한 여섯 시간 동안 혼자 앉아있게 될까 봐 예약을 취소하려 했다. 그래도 크라쿠프까지 왔으니까… 여기 와서 한 게 피에로기 (폴란드식 만두인데 호스텔 근처에 예쁜 언니들이 일하는 귀여운 피에로기 식당이 있어서 매일 3번씩 갔다. 싸기도 엄청나게 쌌다. 만두 한 접시에 6천 원쯤 했나) 먹기밖에 없으니까… 가야겠다 싶었다. 그래서 마음을 먹었고, 다음 날 아침 여섯 시쯤 일어나서 아우슈비츠로 가는 버스에 올랐다.

       아트 슈피겔만의 ‘쥐’는 자신의 아버지 블라덱이 겪은 2차대전을 그려낸 2권짜리 만화책이다. 슈피겔만의 부모님은 두 분 다 폴란드계 유대인으로, 아우슈비츠를 살아남은 생존자들이다. 슈피겔만은 전쟁 후 스웨덴에서 태어나 미국에서 자랐다. 1978년에 아버지의 이야기를 녹음하기 시작해 만화가 완결되어 책으로 출판된 것은 1991년이니 13년에 걸쳐 작업한 대작이라고 할 수 있겠다. 그렇게 오래 걸린 이유는, 음. 중간에 아버지가 돌아가셨고. 슈피겔만 스스로 어떤 수식어도 부족할 만큼 복잡하고 잔혹한 홀로코스트라는 범죄를 요약하고 축소해 만화로 그린다는 것에 대해 죄책감을 느꼈던 것 같다. 만화라는 플랫폼에 홀로코스트를 올려놓는다는 것이 정당한지, 아니 어떤 플랫폼에라도 홀로코스트를 올려놓는 것이 정당한지 엄청나게나게 고민하는 흔적이 많이 보인다. 아버지의 이야기에서 가장 본질적인 것을 찾아 만화를 만들어내는 과정에서 느꼈을 법한 슈피겔만의 고통이 매 페이지에 보인다. 그러나 정말 완벽한 책이다. 엄청나게 인간적인 책이다. 또, 남겨진 이야기들, 보이지 않는 이야기들, 그릴 수 없는 이야기들이 모두 다 들리는 듯할 만큼 완벽하게 짜인 만화다.

       이건 정말 많은 것들에 관한 이야기다. 일단은 당연히, 홀로코스트를 살아남은 한 남자에 관한 이야기다. 그러나 자신의 독단적이고 고집불통인 아버지를 이해해보려는 아들의 이야기이면서도, 초인적인 의지와 서로에 대한 사랑으로 아우슈비츠를 살아남은 한 부부에 관한 이야기이기도 하다. 

  1. ‘쥐’ 2권은 아래의 인용구로 시작한다 ##(1)##:

나치가 유대인을 쥐에 비교했으니, 슈피겔만은 유대인을 모두 쥐로, 나치는 모두 고양이로 그려놓았다. 그러한 아이러니가 가득한 책이다.

  1. 아버지 블라덱은 솔직히 좋아하기 쉬운 사람은 아니다. 자기 자신이 극단적인 인종차별의 희생자이면서 흑인을 끔찍하게 싫어하고, 구차스러울 정도로 구두쇠이다. 아들의 코트가 자기 마음에 들지 않는다는 이유로 버려버리는 고집불통의 사람이기도 하다. 
  2. 그러나 블라덱은 가끔 울고, 자면서 커다란 신음소리를 내기도 하고, 미국으로 이민 와서 살긴 살지만, 전쟁 덕에 삶은 모두 산산조각난, 부정할 수 없이 슬픈 운명의 사람이다. 

       슈피겔만의 어머니는 결국 자살했다. 그 이후의 삶은 초인적인 의지만으로도 부족했나 보다. 슈피겔만은 블라덱의 도무지 이해할 수 없는 행동의 이유를 전쟁에서 찾으려 하지만… 모든 홀로코스트 생존자들이 블라덱처럼 별난 건 아니었다. 이런 식으로, 어떤 것도 설명하지 않고 만화의 컷트로 이야기를 남겨둔다. 모순은 모순대로, 사실은 사실대로. 희망이나 교훈, 메시지를 전달하기 위한 틀에 끼워 맞추려 역사를 주무르는 책이 아니다. 아버지를 영웅화하는 책도, ‘정의는 살아남는다’하는 책도 아니다. 신뢰가 끊임없이 배신하고 사랑이 살해당하는 이야기, 그러니까 말 그대로 홀로코스트의 이야기다.

       내 아우슈비츠 경험은 어땠는지. 내가 걱정했던 것과는 정반대로, 아우슈비츠는 전혀 무섭지 않았다. 단지, 산처럼 쌓여있는 슈트케이스 더미를 보니까 마음이 아팠다. 아프고 이상했다. 남의 것과 헷갈리지 않으려고 이름도 쓰여 있던 슈트케이스들. 전혀 쓸모도 없었을 짐을 바리바리 싸왔을 유대인 엄마들. 이동 당하기 전, 그 가방을 챙기는 가족의 모습을 상상하고, 그들의 기분을 상상했다. 그 가방의 주인들은 대부분 가스실에서 죽었을 것이다. 

       아우슈비츠 I과 비르케나우에 갔었는데 두 군데 다 정말 어마어마하게 컸다. 아우슈비츠 I은 거의 낮은 아파트 단지처럼 생겼고, 비르케나우는 폭발 당했기 때문에 황량한 들판에 굴뚝만 수백 개가 솟아 있다. 그런데 정말 하나도 무섭지 않았다. 왜냐하면, 부다페스트의 지하 감옥이나 서대문형무소와는 달리, 아우슈비츠는 사람을 괴롭히려 만들어진 곳이 아니기 때문이다. 아우슈비츠는 그냥 최대한 많은 사람을 최대한 싸고 빠르게 죽이기 위해 설계된 공간이었다. 그리고 그 엄청난 크기 때문에, 진짜 정말 엄청나게 크기 때문에, 건물에 들어가지 않는다면 거의 쾌적한 느낌까지 들고, 그런 차원의 학살이 있었다는 걸 상상조차 할 수 없어진다. 그니까 그 ‘하나도 무섭지 않게 하는 이유’가 사실은 아우슈비츠를 가장 끔찍하게 하는 이유인 것이다. 

       도대체 어떻게 그런 일이 가능할 수 있었을까. 

       정말로 무서운 것은 그 장소 자체가 아니었다. 정말로 무서운 것은 그 장소에서 수백만 명이 질식해서, 총 맞아서, 굶어서, 추워서, 아파서 죽었다는 사실도 아니고, 거의 똥통에서 생활하며 이유 없이 구타당하고 그들이 인간이라는 사실을 부정당했다는 사실도 아니다. 정말로 무서운 것은, 아우슈비츠에서 일하던 수십 명의 나치 친위대가 매일 출근하고 퇴근했다는 사실이다. 홀로코스트라는 죽이는 사업에 종사했던 그들은, 그들도 아버지였으며, 남편이었고, 유대인을 가스실에 몰아넣는 작업이 끝나고 저녁이 되면 동네 맥주집에서 친구들과 술잔을 기울이는 아저씨였다는 사실이다. 정말로. 특별히 더 악마 같아서 그런 직업을 갖게 된 것이 아니란 말이다.

       고양이가 쥐를 잡아먹는 것은 당연하지만, 나치가 유대인을 잡아먹는 것은 당연하지 않다. 한 정부가 하나의 민족을 세상에서 삭제시키려고 했던 일은 정말 무시무시한 것이지만, 그 당시에는 마치 고양이가 쥐를 잡아먹듯이 당연히 여겨졌다. 이스라엘에 가서 아이히만의 재판을 보기 전에도 알 수 있다. 아렌트의 말처럼 명백한 ‘무사유의 죄’인데, 그렇게 말해버리고 나니 어깨와 목 사이 어딘가가 가려운 것 같다. 찜찜하다. ‘집단적인, 그리고 조직화된 광기가 인류를 어떻게 몰아가는지 보여준다’라고 말해버리기엔, 너무나도, 너무나도 부족하다. 

       난 아마 어떻게 그런 일이 일어날 수 있었는지 절대 이해하지 못할 것이다.

       블라덱의 이야기는 전쟁으로부터가 아니라 슈피겔만의 어머니를 만나고 사랑에 빠지던 때로부터 시작한다. ‘쥐’의 이야기는 폴란드에서가 아니라 미국에서 끝난다. 홀로코스트 전에도, 그 후에도, 삶은 있었다. 삶은 있어야 했다.

       그리고 그럼에도 불구하고 민들레는 그때와 다름없이 피어 있었다.

(Fall 2015)


What happens to welled-up memories of an eroding landscape where its inhabitants have disappeared into social amnesia, erased if not forgotten? What happens to the memories that are not circulated in social and public discourses, when these memories are all that evince the past existence of a certain landscape and its inhabitants? What power do those memories have, and what defines that community?

         A memory is a narrative written regarding a certain reading of an event, which continuously interacts with other narratives, both internal and external. Memories are palimpsestuous, as they are always reconstituted by individual and collective readings and rewritings. Memories fluctuate between omissions and exaggerations, mutate as they encounter different contexts, and redefine time. Memories are haunting in deconstructive ways through which time can no longer be conceived as a linear progression, but as something that runs backwards and forwards, dispersing into thousands of directions. Lastly, memories have the critical and political potential to create ruptures in established historical narratives. In examining this potential, Peter Verovšek states that “memory is needed to sustain the constructive power of individuals and unique human beings within self-consciously defined communities” (6). “The constructive power” here refers to the communicative political power that defines an “actor or a group in a social setting” (5), which arises from the sense of being within a certain community. By this definition, memories, as much as they deconstruct, they also construct, and reconstruct. They become the bedrock of certain communities, built upon shared experiences. Then, circulating memories within a society constructs, and reconstructs communities, and through that very circulation, the legitimacy of the communities and their shared pasts is established and actualized.

         Yet what happens to welled-up memories of an eroding landscape where its inhabitants have disappeared into social amnesia, erased if not forgotten? What happens to the memories that are not circulated in social and public discourses, when these memories are all that evince the past existence of a certain landscape and its inhabitants? What power do those memories have, and what defines that community? Heinz Insu Fenkl’s Memories of My Ghost Brother (1996) is a text that arises from these questions. Growing up in a US Military camptown, otherwise known as gijichon ##(1)##, the narrator questions the unquestionably natural phenomenon of evaporation: 


My MA thesis (2019, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea) analyzes Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining in terms of reading and writing. The spatial setting of the novel, the Overlook hotel, is a place where the past and the present are indistinguishable. Focusing on this inseparable timeframes, this thesis pays attention to the process in which the past and the present becomes destructed through writing, and the ways in which reading can lead the hauntings of the past into a different future. Firstly, this thesis redefines the father-son relationship between Jack and Danny Torrance as that of the writer as a reader. Defining Jack’s death in terms of Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” (1967), this thesis locates the source of Jack’s death in his possessive desire to own and represent the past. However, the past is already in the present, making ‘re-presentation,’ an act of bringing the past into the present again, is impossible. Secondly, this thesis anlayzes Danny’s shining ability as a reading ability. The shining ability which renders Danny a vision for the past and the future, is defined as the ability to carefully read the unstable signifiers. Danny does not share his father’s possessive desire for representation and survives from the Overlook hotel as a reader. This survival gives him a chance to continue his life in the future. However, this thesis pays attention to the fact that Tony, Danny’s future self, is already haunted by the past. The name of Tony comes from Danny’s abusive grandfather Anthony, and the undesirable past is repeated in the form of the name-inheritance. Lastly, if the signifier of the future is already haunted by the past, the only way to produce newness for the future is to read the past in different ways. This thesis concludes that Danny can read the past in ways that has not been done before, and that he can open up a future that is different from the past, through such reading. 

The following is an excerpt from the Introduction of the thesis. The full text is available on

        The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology defines “represent” as “bring into one’s presence; bring before the mind; [...] RE + PRESENT” (“represent”). The prefix ‘re-’ indicates something “with the sense ‘again’” (“re-”). “Present” derives from “presence,” which means “make [something] present” (“presence”). Going further, “presence” is constituted by “PRE + sēns,”: ‘pre,’ “before” (“pre-”) and ‘sēns,’ “feel” (“sense”). Therefore, representation, in terms of writing, refers to the act of making a past feeling come into presence again by reconstructing that feeling with words. It is interesting that none of the definitions of the fragments that make up the word ‘represent’ are rooted in palpable reality. It is the “sense” of something present, rather than the ‘fact’ that is being re-presented. Already in its etymology, this word that has been problematized from Plato through Roland Barthes to Jacques Derrida is exuding a sense of hauntedness. The word ‘representation,’ in that it is rooted in senses, can easily be explained as an act of re-presenting a feeling that has passed, but somehow remaining in traces, to present it again in the here and now. The act of representation is shaped by the desire to restore the senses of the past into a text; and what is represented is haunted by such senses that surface in the writing process. Therefore, writing, if it is indeed an act of mimesis, cannot be discussed apart from the haunting of the past, or temporalities in general. 

        This thesis, reading Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining as an allegory of Roland Barthes’ “The Death of an Author,” ##(1)## reconsiders the father-son relationship of Jack and Danny Torrance as that of a writer and a reader. Jack Torrance is an aspiring writer, and Danny is a reader who has just begun to learn how to read. While Jack is destroyed in his obsession to write about the history of the Overlook, Danny survives the haunting powers of that history by reading it in collaboration/cooperation with his mother Wendy, and the head chef of the hotel Dick Hallorann. All three characters who survive have a special ability called ‘shining,’ which I define as fundamentally the ability to read constantly shifting and mutating signifiers that consist of the seemingly unreadable textuality of the hotel. Ultimately, this thesis aims to interrogate how The Shining warns against the possessive writing of the past, and appeal to the responsibility of the reader in rearranging the signifiers of the past in the present so that it opens up the possibility of moving forward into the future. In this sense, the future is a rereading of the past. The past is already haunting the present, as deeply embedded and vividly resuscitated in the haunted present of the Overlook hotel. What is not so apparent is the ways in which The Shining depicts the future as a reflection of the past. Investigating this closely interconnected relationship between the past, the present, and the future, this thesis concludes that the collective and flexible reading of signifiers is a key to reading the past and regenerate its meaning in the present to take us into the future.

        The Shining captures the horrors that derive from the unforgotten past which haunts the present, and with the two central characters being a writer and a reader put in the midst of those horrors, exemplifies a situation where the representational activities cannot be separated from temporalities. Indeed, in any representational experience, it is apparent that the text being read in the present has originally been produced in the past. Going back to the hauntedness of representation itself, the text produced in the past in turn embodies in itself the traces of other pasts. Furthermore, because any reading generates interpretations, reading can be understood as a kind of (re)writing. Then, a text produced in the past is not only just read in the present, but it is simultaneously to be reconstituted and rewritten in the future and for the future, although the moment of original inscription would be irrecoverably lost. As such, every text is palimpsestuous. A palimpsest, which means a manuscript or a piece of writing on which old writings have been covered by new writings, serves as an appropriate metaphor in understanding the peculiar timeframe inherent in any literary text. The process of writing and reading the text creates an arena where layers of signs of the past, present, and the future at once come to be accumulated and eventually lose differences from one another. Signifiers are sedimented, and the future can only be imagined in that same arena where the past has an irrepressible existence. In this sense, literary works are inseparably linked to the concepts of time: they are haunted by what has been written, what is being written, and what will be written by all subjects who encounter a text. This is how a text, like an organic being with an agency of its own, comes to trespass and deconstruct the supposed divisions of the past, present, and the future. 

        Accordingly, this thesis explores the question of presentation revolving around the two axes. One is that of the reading and writing, and the other is that of timeframes. As reading, in its production of interpretations, becomes a form of writing, the binary in the axis of reading-writing can no longer be sustained. They are not dichotomously opposing categories, and activities that happen simultaneously. An evident example is Jack’s writing of the Overlook’s history, which originated in his reading of the haunted hotel’s complex and concealed past. Another is Danny’s reading of signs that are given to him through the shining, such as REDRUM that he eventually reads it as a murder of himself and Wendy by Jack but comes to write it anew as that of his father. The axis of timeframes is revealed to be all haunted by the past. The past persists into the present at the Overlook, as past events, like the masquerade of 1945, reoccur over and over during the Torrances’ stay at the hotel. Also, Jack’s abusive past, such as breaking Danny’s arm in a violent fit of anger, repeat in different forms during their stay. Ultimately, this axis of the past, the present, and the future intersects with the aforementioned axis of reading and writing, because the indistinguishability of reading (the text of the past) and writing (generating new meanings into the future) opens up the possibility that the repetition of the past can be read in different ways by rearranging the signifiers of the past in ways otherwise unknown in the past. In this sense, reading and writing repeat the haunting of the past yet expand it in different directions.

        While defining The Shining as a Gothic text is not the central concern of this thesis, it is necessary to situate the issues of deconstructed reading and writing through timeframes in this novel in terms of ‘horror.’ Perhaps what can define The Shining as a Gothic text is its blatant presence of ghosts. In Literature of Terror (1996), David Punter argues that “the elements which seem most universal in the [Gothic] genre are the apparent presence of a ghost” (12). The ghost, who is a revenant from the past, is a representative embodiment of the haunting of the past in the present. Punter, further trying to define gothic literature, argues that “the Gothic [has] a way of relating to the real, to historical and psychological facts,” which is why “Gothic fiction has, above all, to do with terror” (12). Gothic, then, has to do with the terror in the idea of the unending past, past that is indistinguishable from the present. This comes to attest that what is terrifying in gothic literature is the persistence and the return of the past. However, the fact that the idea of the past should invoke terror fundamentally suppresses ‘the other,’ as the past, what is not in the present myself is also a form of the other. This other, the past, constantly invading my present is terrifying, and should be sublimated. By the definition of ‘representation,’ the suppression of the other that does not belong in the presence is an impossible project in literature: the word already embraces in itself the bombardment of what has passed. In this sense, I argue that the Gothic representation has, above all, to do with deconstruction. It is time to embrace, not terrorize, the deconstructions Gothic fiction has been depicting. 

        Scholars locate the horror in Stephen King as arising from a certain anxiety about how one thing may not be the thing it seems to be. Regarding King and horror fiction, Bernard J. Gallagher argues that “the insight which King offers into the work of horror is based upon a bimodal or dualistic vision which insists upon the necessity of reading between lines” (37). The “dualistic vision” refers to the conventional notion of representation in which a thing is either articulatable or not and it, if the latter, has to be adjusted or compromised according to an acceptable ways of understanding so as to be articulated. However, I do not regard The Shining as a novel that is dictated by such “bimodal” logic. The ghosts in The Shining appear to the characters in the form of their grotesque, terrifying faces, bodies, and voices. As such, they seem to be recognizable in terms of our conventionally Gothic understanding of them as ghosts. Yet, those ghosts are not fully adjusted or compromised in the conventional gothic manner. What they truly signify is much more than how they look on the surface. Furthermore, the relationship between the signifier and the signified at the Overlook is not one to one. It is one to many. Signifiers are unregulated, unpredictable, and explosive at this haunted hotel. This is why I maintain that what lies at the core of The Shining is the deconstruction of the process in writing and reading. Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Browne argue that, “in The Shining, the supernatural motif of the novel is the haunted hotel, but the actual horror elements of the story center more with the disintegration of the Torrance family” (6). Yet what causes that “disintegration of the Torrance family” is the already latent yet increasingly intensified conflict between the writer-Jack and the reader-Danny regarding how to comprehend the “horror elements” that are the ghostly signifiers of the hotel. Indeed, as Heidi Strengell argues, “King has been so concerned with ontology that he constantly writes about multidimensional worlds, universes within universes” (19). While the multidimensional world of significances is how the haunting is represented at the Overlook, in the form of mutative timeframes embodied in signifiers, what I read from The Shining is not so much a “concern” about ontological stability of things, but how a deliberate reading of unstable signifiers can be a means of precarious yet ontological survival itself amidst the inescapable powers of the past. 

        Despite its limitation, it is important to reflect upon the deconstructive and reconstructive implication of The Shining in relation with Gothic fiction because the genre has been characterized by doubles and binaries. The issue of this dichotomy is crucial in terms of writing, as the division between the representable and the unrepresentable dictates the logic of representation in Gothic novels. In her decisive work The Coherency of Gothic Conventions (1980), Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues that the futile force trying to reunite the split back into its original unified form is the most vital drive in the Gothic novel. She argues,

        The self and whatever it is that is outside have a proper, natural, necessary connection to each other, but one that the self is suddenly incapable of making. The inside life and the outside life have to continue separately, becoming counterparts rather than partners, the relationship between them one of parallels and correspondences rather than communication. This, though it may happen in an instant, is a fundamental reorganization, creating a doubleness where singleness should be. And the lengths there are to go to reintegrate the sundered elements—finally, the impossibility of restoring them to their original oneness—are the most characteristic energies of the Gothic novel. (13)

        The spatial division of the inside and outside cannot be unified in Gothic literature, and Sedgwick identifies the Freudian psychoanalysis as the locus of such dichotomous critical convention of the genre. She says: “[i]n congruence with this [i.e. divided between the inner and the outer] map of the self, critics of the Gothic, and not only those who describe themselves as psychoanalytic, find it easy to group together on the one hand the surface, reason, and repression and on the other the depths, the irrational, and the sexual” (142). However, I stress that, in The Shining, it is not the “repression” that leads to unrepresentability. It is the always-already haunting presence of the past that makes representation impossible: naturally, one cannot bring into presence what is already present. Again, the binary between the representable and the unrepresentable in The Shining is deconstructed by the inherent persistence of the past. 

        Reading and writing through the layers of time, the reader and the writer come to be in“separately” related to one another. Putting Sedgwick’s argument in terms of reading and writing, writing can be equated to the “inside life” which refers to an expression of the inner self, and reading can be equated to the “outside life” as the text to be read lies outside to the self and is heterogenous to the self. Sedgwick articulates that “the most characteristic energies of the Gothic novel” is rooted in the impossibility of reconciling the “counterparts” of “the inside life and the outside life”(13). However, when the axis of reading and writing is placed in the center of discussing The Shining, the two seemingly opposing activities of reading and writing indeed “reorganize” themselves into a “communicative” relationship. Then, understanding The Shining through the axes of reading and writing and time not only deconstructs the division of the two textual activities and of the past-present-future, but it also reconstructs the categories previously thought to be irreconcilable as in fact interdependent and incessantly haunting and influencing one another. Jodey Castricano conceptualizes writing in Cryptomimesis (2001) as follows: “writing [...] is learning to let the plurivocal spirit speak, a task which is the gothic equivalent of pursuing a phantom through labyrinthine vaults, being led onwards by the echoes of footsteps” (120). However, in The Shining, it is the reader who learns to speak in such “plurivocal spirit” while the writer deteriorates in his own obsession with authority. And this reader generates meanings like a writer. Reading and writing become a simultaneous process. 

        In response to various issues of representation as examined above, the thesis presents a discussion of The Shining in the following structure. The first chapter deals with Jack as a writer, exploring the ways in which writing can be understood in terms of playing(1). Despite some apparent resonances between the two activities as pointed out by both Freud and Barthes, writing and playing can potentially be a dangerously combined attempt when the textual material is the past. To do this, I first focus on the fact that Jack wishes to write a play about his personal past, The Little School. The play-writing is significant because Jack is later possessed by the Overlook and reduced to an agent of the autonomy the hotel exerts over him. In other words, he attempts to play with his own past only to be played by the Overlook’s past. Moving onto the concept of writing as representation, I probe into why Jack is inevitably destroyed in his desire to write, yet avoid framing this destruction simply as a writerly failure. Instead, I identify the locus of Jack’s destruction as his obsession with the futile idea of Author-ity. Authority in this sense is the control an author has over his textual material, the power to authoritatively produce a new narrative. Jack is rejected having this power, because the past, his primary inspiration, is essentially ungraspable and inescapably haunting. Then, Jack’s ‘failure’ is not a personal failure but a failure inherent in writing as a representation. Seàn Burke argues that “[w]hat Roland Barthes has been talking of all along is not the death of the author, but the closure of representation” (48). In the case of The Shining, the author literally dies, because representation cannot happen in the haunted hotel.

        The second chapter analyzes Danny as a reader. Danny begins by being a reader who is terrified by the fact that signs can mutate. Due to his shining ability, he witnesses certain signifiers like a perfectly ordinary hotel door can mutate into an unexpected signified that hides a not so ordinary, haunted room inside with a bloated corpse of a lady. He also learns to read in order to please the authoritative writer, who happens to be the authoritative member of his family: his father. However, Danny in the end realizing that the meanings embedded in certain signifiers can indeed shift, and that reading these shifting signifieds is a way to escape the Overlook’s inescapably haunting powers. He becomes capable to read the signifiers and rewrites them according to the meanings required for his survival. In this discussion of Danny, I steer away from understanding him as a child hero. As his middle name repeats the abusive figure of Anthony, who also shares the name with Danny’s future self Tony, Danny inherits a piece of the past in himself regardless of his will. In this sense, he is neither young, nor is he a hero. Yet it is ironic that this seemingly powerless and decentralized character, which embodies a certain undesired past, is telepathic with the future, and has comes to secure a future for himself through his survival. This chapter focuses on how reading-writing and past-present-future are deconstructed. These deconstructions derive from the indistinguishable divisions between the two representational activities and the timeframes. Lastly, this chapter concludes that the future is already haunted by the past, which renders reading-rewriting as a viable means to change the significations of sinister repetition of the past. 

        The ultimate purpose of this thesis is to show how reading is writing, and how the future is already rooted in the past. The repetition of the past is in fact an omnipresent condition and not a horrifying state. The past has inescapable powers, and the dead is always already alive at the Overlook. I propose to think about the future as a rearrangement of textual signs, or signifiers. It is such rearrangement that allows a construction of the future. As Derrida argues in “Signature Event Context” (1988), every sign can be “put between quotation marks; in so doing it can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable” (12) ##(2)##. The future is none other than the illimitably generated new contexts. This construction is, however, essentially a reconstruction: it is not an “absolutely new” that eschatologically breaks off from the past, but it is cyclical, because haunting is a semiotic condition in which signs are inescapably circulated among themselves. Understanding this repetition of time foremost as a textual phenomenon opens up a mode of rearranging, reconstructing, and reimagining the future: and the prefix ‘re-’ already manifests that the future, as much as the present, is related to the past. The harm of repetition of time is not healed but rehabilitated through reading and writing, by the replacement and displacement of signifiers. It could not, and should not, be healed, but still would be liberating. The ever-repeated presence of the past can be undone and redone through textual activities of reading and writing. 

(Winter 2019)


       대학교 1학년 때 그럴 듯한 외투 없이 겨울을 난 적이 있다. 여름 내내 아르바이트로 벌어둔 돈을 9월 한달만에 모두 써 버리고, 11월 찬 바람이 불어치기 시작했을 때 내가 가진 것은 여름에 산 예쁜 반바지와 짧은 치마 밖에 없었다. 때마침 엄마와도 크게 싸워, 겨울 외투를 사달라고 감히 말을 꺼낼 수도 없는 상황이었다. 그래서 나는 신입생 OT때 받았던 서강대학교 마크가 쓰인, 사이즈도 전혀 맞지 않고 보온 능력도 거의 없는 검은색 바람막이를 입고 겨울이 빨리 지나가기만을 바랬다. 그 해 겨울은 유난히도 추웠고, 추위에 정신이 반쯤 나간 상태로 몇 달을 지내다 보니 봄이 왔던 기억이 난다. 3월 초의 봄이라고 해도 그렇게 따뜻한 것은 아니지만.

       1842년 발표된 니콜라이 고골의  『외투』라는 단편소설은 겨울 외투를 둘러싼 아주 처절한 비극을 그린다. 내가 경솔해서 겨울을 춥게 보내야 했던 것과는 다른 차원의 비극이다. 『외투』의 주인공 아까끼 아까끼예비치는 9급 관리인데, 뻬쩨르부르그의 한 관청에서 정서하는 일을 한다. 관청에서는 동료들에게 늘 조롱과 괴롭힘을 받지만 그런 대로 평화롭게 살아가던 아까끼에게 큰 난관이 닥친다. 겨울이 되어 무서운 북풍이 불어닥치기 시작하는데, 그가 가진 외투는 속이 비칠만큼 얇고, 구멍이 송송 뚫린 너덜너덜한, ‘실내복’에 버금가는 것 뿐이었던 것이다. 외투를 새로 사야 한다는 재봉사의 말에 아까끼는 충격을 받고 가슴이 철렁하지만, 그래도 성실히 돈을 모아 외투를 장만한다. 오랜 시간 동안, 따뜻하게 겨울을 보낼 희망 하나로 버텨낸 아까끼에게 드디어 새 외투가 생겼다. 그러나, 아까끼는 외투를 입고 외출한 첫 날, 강도에게 외투를 빼앗기고 만다. 이 사건 이후로 고골이 그리는 것은 웃음이 나올 정도로 부조리한 관료제, 그리고 눈물이 나올 정도로 처참한 아까끼의 죽음이다. 그는 자신의 외투를 다시 찾을 길이 없다는 것을 깨닫자 큰 충격으로 그만 죽어버린다. 하지만 아까끼의 죽음 이후에 흥미로운 사건이 발생한다. 아까끼로 추정되는 유령이, 뻬쩨르부르그를 배회하며 사람들의 외투를 빼앗기 시작한 것이다. 단지 따뜻하게 겨울을 보내고 싶다는 소망 하나로 시작한 아까끼의 외투 사기 프로젝트는, 유령이 됨으로서 끝마치게 된다. 

       이 작품에서 고골이 던지는 화두는 굳어진 사회적 불평등과 믿을 수 없이 소박한 곳에서부터 시작하는 비극, 도무지 부조리하다고 밖엔 말할 수 밖에 없는 관등제 등 다양하다. 이 관등제의 문제는 수행성 (performativity)과 연결시켜 논의를 시작할 수 있을 것 같다. 나아가, ‘외투’라는 의상이 정체성의 수행에 어떠한 의미를 가져다 줄 수 있는지 또한 생각해 볼 만한 지점이다. 주디스 버틀러가 제안한 수행성 이론의 핵심은, 수행에 우선하는 정체성이라는 없다는 것이다. 만일 이것이 관등제에까지 적용될 수 있다면, 관등에 우선하는 정체성은 없으며, 이 관등 또한 수행을 통해 얻어질 뿐이라는 결론에 도달할 수 있다. 그러나, 아까끼의 비극에 비추어 보았을 때 이러한 수행성은 조금 다른 의미를 가질 수도 있을 것이다. 그렇다면, 19세기 관등제의 시대, 아주 추운 뻬쩨르부르그에서 외투 때문에 죽는다는 것은 어떠한 의미를 가지는가? 이 문제는 두 가지 상반된 힘을 내포한다. 인간 문명의 산물로서의 관등제와, 자연의 힘으로서의 추위이다. 추위는 인간이 도저히 어떻게 할 수 없지만, 사회적 불평등을 생산하는 관등제는 인간의 창조물인 것이다. 그러나 『외투』에서 관등제란 러시아의 북풍과 마찬가지로 인간의 힘을 뛰어넘는 것으로 그려진다. 그것이 아까끼의 죽음으로서 표현된 비극의 핵심이다. 

       러시아의 서구화, 러시아의 근대화는 모두 18세기, 표트르 대제로부터 시작한다. 그는 정치, 군사를 포함해 교육, 문화, 예술 분야를 모두 ‘유럽 수준’으로 개혁한다. 그의 개혁은 상부구조에서 그치는 것이 아니라, 음식, 의복, 사교모임, 신문 등 일상생활의 많은 부분들까지 영향력을 미친다. 러시아 사회의 안과 밖, 아래와 위 모두를 바꿔놓으려 시도한 것이다. 그러한 시도는 상당 부분 성공했다고 볼 수 있다. (러시아의 이해, 39) 

       표트르 대제의 근대화 중 『외투』에서까지 극명한 흔적을 찾아볼 수 있는 것은 배경이 되는 도시 뻬쩨르부르그와 관등제이다. 표트르 대제는 1703년, 네바 강 하구에 자신의 이름을 딴 도시 뻬쩨르부르그를 건설한다. 이 곳은 습하고 홍수가 나거나, 혹독하게 추운 열악한 조건을 가진 곳이었지만 표트르 대제는 아랑곳하지 않고 이곳에 도시를 만든 후, 수도로 임명한다. 건설 과정 중 수많은 사람들이 희생되었고, 귀족은 강제로 이주당한다. 이 작품을 읽는 데에 중요한 의미를 가져다 주는 관등제 또한 표트르 대제에 의해 1722년 도입되었다. 그는 14등급으로 관등을 나누었고, 이러한 관등제는 볼셰비키 혁명 때까지 변동 없이 시행되었다.

       『외투』의 주인공 아까끼 아까끼예비치는 9급 관리이다. 여기서 중요한 것은 바로 그가 9급이라는 것이다. 왜냐하면 8급 이상부터는 귀족만 자리를 차지할 수 있었고, 9급이 평민으로서는 가장 높게 올라갈 수 있는 위치이기 때문이다. 조주관은 “고골의 문학 세계”에서 “고골이 바라본 러시아 사회는 관등의 세계이다. 19세기의 관등은 사실주의적 관점에서 빠지지 않고 거론되는 중요한 것이었다.” (297) 라고 주장하는데, 이것은 아까끼가 살던 시대를 이해하는 데에 관등제가 얼마나 중요한지를 보여준다. 나아가, 『러시아의 이해』에서 김영란 또한, “19세기 러시아 사회는 관등의 세계로서 인간이 관등에 지배되는 몰인격적 사회이다.” (69) 라고 말한다. 인위적으로 건설된 도시인 뻬쩨르부르그, 그리고 임의적으로 나뉜 관등표가 인간을 지배하는 그러한 틀 속에서 『외투』의 이야기는 쓰이고 있는 것이다.

       작품의 시작 부분에서 고골은 뻬쩨르부르그 전체의 분위기를 읽을 수 있는 힌트를 제공한다. 이 작품은  “그가 근무하던 관청은…… 아니, 어느 관청인지 밝히지 않는 게 좋을 것 같다. … ‘어느 관청’에 ‘어느 관리’가 근무하고 있었다. 아주 뛰어나다고 할 수 없고 키가 작은 그 관리는...” (55) 이러한 문장으로 시작한다. 그 ‘어느 관리’란 아까끼인데, 소설의 시작 부분에서 그가 ‘어느 관청’에서 일하는 ‘어느 관리’로 소개된다는 점이 중요하다. 이 지점은 뻬쩨르부르그라는 도시의 상징적 역할과 맞물리는데, 개인성이 존재하지 않는, 익명의 인간들만 존재하는 대도시의 특징을 잘 보여주기 때문이다. 이 때의 익명성은 역설적이게도 한 개인의 정체성을 숨겨주는 기능을 하는 것이 아니라, 오히려 모두를 보편적인 ‘특징 없음'으로, 따라서 정체성도 ‘알 필요 없음’으로 벗겨버리고, 축소시킨다. 어느 관청인지 밝히는 것이 중요하지 않은 이유는, 어느 관청이나 똑같기 때문이다. 수없이 많고 많은 ‘어느 관청’들의 ‘어느 관리’ 중 한 사람으로, 비극적 주인공 아까끼는 살아가고 있다. 『외투』의 독자들은 아까끼의 생활을 작품 내내 따라가지만, 뻬쩨르부르그의 현실 속에서 그는 알 필요가 없는 사람이다.

       그러나 아까끼도 사람이기 때문에 보잘것 없을지라도 자신의 개인사를 가지고 있는데, 그것은 그의 이름의 역사로 표현된다. 그의 이름은 아까끼 아까끼예비치 바쉬마끄 이다. 러시아식 이름에서 성과 이름 사이에 아버지 이름 + 예비치가 들어가니까, 그의 아버지 이름도 아까끼라는 것을 알 수 있다. 그냥 아버지의 이름을 따서 그가 탄생한 것이다. 만일 이름이 한 개인의 고유성을 나타내는 역할을 한다고 생각해 본다면, 아까끼는 별다른 고유성이 없다는 사실을 알 수 있다. 문학적 상상력을 발휘해 볼 때, 개인성이 삭제된 이름이라고도 생각할 수 있다. 아까끼의 탄생에 대해 고골은 이렇게 쓰고 있다: “이렇게 해서 아까끼 아까끼예비치라는 이름이 생겨난 것이다. 세례를 받을 때 아기는 울어버렸고, 마치 9급 관리가 될 것을 미리 예상이라도 한 듯 얼굴을 찡그렸다. 모든 일이 바로 이렇게 일어난 것이다.” (57) 2005년 펭귄 출판사의 영어 번역본에서는 이 문장이 predetermined라는 단어를 통해 표현되고 있다. Predetermination, 즉 미리 정해진 것, 그가 9급 관리가 된 것은 ‘미리 예상’된 일일 뿐 아니라 ‘미리 정해진’ 일이라는 사실을 보여준다. 이 지점이 중요하다. 왜냐하면 관등이 아무리 세분화되었다고 해도, 그래서 모두가 일을 한다고 해도, 관등이 태어난 순간 미리 정해져 있다면 관등제는 그냥 귀족제와 별다른 점이 없기 때문이다. 사다리를 오를 방법이 없는데 왜 사다리를 만들어 놓는가? 이러한 표트르의 관등제는, 모든 사회적 위치에 이름과 관등을 부여함으로서, 오히려 사회이동이 불가능한 신분제도를 정당화시키는 역할만을 할 뿐이다. 아까끼는 개인성 없는 이름, 하찮을 것이 정해진 9급 관리의 운명을 타고 난 것이다. 


Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?.” *Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture*, edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. U of Illinois P, 1988.

         The subaltern speaks through ellipses in Svetlana Alexievich’s work, The Unwomanly Face of War (1985). Etymologically rooted in the Greek “ἔλλειψις,” the word “ellipsis” signifies meanings such as “falling short” and “leave out”. (“Ellipsis”) The ellipsis thereby becomes a signifier embodying what fell short and left out. It makes what has been only articulated by silence in between spoken or written words. Silence, however, is none other than absence of sounds. Yet the ellipsis marks the silence, nothingness, in a visible written form. The three dots across the page marks a presence of the absence, signifying the things left unsaid yet nonetheless there, occupying a place on the paper. It is such spectral presence of the ellipsed that enable a silent yet existent voice of the subaltern in The Unwomanly Face of War, an intimate account of what the Soviets called “Great Patriotic War”. The text is almost entirely composed by interviews Alexievich conducted, which she then transcribes into written text and combines with her personal writings. Within this heteroglossic text, Alexievich inserts her authorial mark in the transcriptions, as signified through her abundant use of ellipses to mark profound silences. In between each tercet of dots, the ellipsis becomes implicative, and can be read as sonorous with absent voices; Alexievich opens up extra-linguistic space into which these long-silent others can enter and be heard.

         The Unwomanly Face of War is a both groundbreaking and strange text—it is groundbreaking in that Alexievich unravels the narratives of women veterans that have long been erased from the official discourses of the war, and strange, because it stands at the narrow threshold between an objective reportage and an extremely private literary piece. It is also an epic-scale work that took over a decade to complete. Alexievich beings her job during when Soviet Union, travelling all around the USSR to meet and interview women veterans, the first version being published in 1985, then republished in 2004. She repetitively presents one after another of traumatized memories women veterans who fought and participated at various positions during the WWII, telling stories of the war that have never been related before. She conducts thousands of interviews. While she justifies her selective process as an attempt “to try to record women of various military professions,” it is ironic that she only records those who fought in defense of the USSR. To specify, she does not record the stories of, for example, wartime prostitutes, or those who betrayed Soviet ideology. The most tragic narratives of those who had the illusion of Soviet greatness are prioritized. Indeed, Alexievich could not record all the stories in total, and such totality would be against the polyphony this work captures. Yet it does seem like yet another subaltern silencing. This paper locates the “left out” in the signifier of the ellipsis. Alexievich acknowledges always-another possibility of other voices coming in, through the ellipsis.  

         Previous criticisms on this text have focused on the issues of Alexievich’s authorship and victimization of the interviewed women. The unconventional genre of the work being not entirely any of the “collected novel,” “novel-oration,” “novel-testimony,” “epic-chorus,” (Jaireth 90) have drawn serious interests regarding the mode of organization Alexievich takes upon with various writings. For example, in her article “Through the Eyes of a Humanist,” Subhash Jaireth states that Alexievich “curat[es] the narratives,” yet “does not force meaning”. He further goes on to argue that a “remarkable feature of Alexievich’s books is the absence of authorial commentary” (91). Then, Jaireth, critiquing and praising something that is not in the text itself, makes an impossible claim. While it is reasonable that Alexievich rather functions as a curator than an author to her work, the absence of authorial hand does not seem like a possible state to achieve. However subtly, she excludes certain narratives and includes some others. In this activity, an authorial commentary cannot be absolutely absent, and the process of transcription can never be completely transparent. On the other hand, Dana Bizuleanu reads a number of Alexievich’s works in a post-humanist perspective. Regarding The Unwomanly Face of War, Bizuleanu argues, “the women in Alexievich’s books are the plural, nomadic subject, in which any life/death dichotomies cease to exist” (284). The basis for this argument, which seems to be an extreme leap, is that the absence of menstruation in the female bodies on the battlegrounds manifests the “material and physical outcome on war,” turning them to such posthuman subjects. Furthermore, the life/death dichotomy never comes to an end. Life is desired and death is feared in the text, and this dichotomy of desire and fear remains consistent. Aliaksandr Novikau, lastly, takes on an essentialist perspective on “women’s true, authentic narratives” (320). His argument not only reduces femininity into true authenticity, he also invests in a naive argument: “Alexievich looks for such a person [...] assaulted, humiliated, and offended by the totalitarian state, but was able to win at the end of the day” (324). His vague conception of ‘winning’ has no relevance to Alexievich’s project in The Unwomanly Face of War, and it is exactly such logic of power relations of winning and losing that she attempts at subverting. Without investigating into the quiet authorial mark of the ellipses and attempting to listen the very persistent yet again quiet voice of the subaltern, these criticisms remain very limited.

         In the midst of such criticisms, this paper focuses on Alexievich’s deliberate and political use of the ellipses, framing that ghostly syntax as a marker of the presence of the absent. The silence, as non-sound, does not have to be marked in the realm of the present. Yet Alexievich marks this non-sound through the visible signifier, “...”. Furthermore, the ellipsis, used together by Alexievich and the women veterans, signals at a sense of collectivity. Attempting to capture a voice of the subaltern, Alexievich assembles the women into a chorus in The Unwomanly Face of War. They are once again in a struggle together, to represent their unrepresentable selves and experiences. Going against Susan Sontag’s argument on the always-already ideologically stipulated nature of the collective memory, this paper brings Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak into the conversation to rethink the potential of subaltern’s voice actually being heard, and having significance. The veterans who speak in this text are not only marginalized by global capitalism by being a Soviet, but also by the domestic and nationalistic sexism, by being a woman. In this doubly marginalized space, these women are silenced by the male-centered and patriotic discourses of war and struggle to make sense of how their dehumanizing experience of violence at various battlegrounds could have been glorified and reduced in the name of victory. These silenced women face an epistemic violence similar to that the women Spivak discusses in “Can the Subaltern Talk?”. These women struggle to speak yet cannot; and in Alexievich’s carefully selective process, some narratives are excluded and some are prioritized over another. This paper locates the space where these uncontained women’s voice at the three dots of the ellipsis. The ellipsis, then, is a political strategy: it acknowledges the unrepresentable experiences of the subaltern and functions as a eulogy to those who have been rendered voiceless.


         Alison Bechdel’s graphic narrative Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) is a book about three things. On one level, the work is a memoir recounting Bechdel’s relationship with her closeted gay father, herself being a lesbian. Fun Home is then fundamentally within the genre of queer autobiography, exploring the identities of those sexually queer. On another, because this text circles around Bruce’s (supposed) suicide and the shocking revelations of his sexuality, this work is also about Bechdel’s traumatic encounter with the events leading up to and following his death. Lastly, Fun Home is a narrative of Bechdel constructing her own artistic identity, paralleled with yet also overcoming her own “old father, old artificer” ##(1)##: Bruce Bechdel. Quoting James Joyce’s closing words in his modernist bildungsroman, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, at the opening of her own narrative, Bechdel actively engages with and reverses canonical literature in representing her own traumatized memoir. 

         While trauma, intertextuality, and artist-becoming all serve as dominant elements in Fun Home, previous criticisms fall short in understanding the intricate relationship in which the three elements are entangled in the way of Alison searching to escape from the metaphorical labyrinth that is the trauma inflicted by Bruce’s death. On the one hand, there is a group of critics that read the work in terms of an archive, focusing on its significance regarding queer narrative genealogy. Ann Cvetkovich, notably, argues that “standing at the intersections of both contemporary LGBTQ culture and public discussions of historical trauma, Fun Home dares to claim historical significance and public space” (112). On the other hand, critics like Julia Watson reads the work in focus to its autobiographical form, arguing that Fun Home’s hybrid mode as an autobiography “[explores] complex formations of gender and sexuality in the modern family” (28).  Fun Home as a representative text of queer graphic memoir is inarguably important. However, by emphasizing the issue of sexuality, both frames of criticism mainly highlight the autobiographical and historical aspects of the work and undermines the textual significance the work holds internally. 

         Fun Home as a text representing a trauma is agreed upon by critics. Yet what remains widely unacknowledged is Bechdel’s intertextual mode of representing the trauma. The critical discussion over the work’s apparent intertextuality centers around the relationship between literary modernism as a highbrow culture and graphic narrative as a pop culture. For example, Ariela Freedman understands Bechdel’s ample citation of Joyce, Fitzgerald and Proust as an invitation for the reader “to read her book alongside theirs and making a space for herself on the shelf of modernist literature” (126), and further asserts that “Bechdel is clearly stating the legitimacy of the graphic narrative as inheritor of the modernist tradition, particularly as exemplified through Joyce” (130). Such argument is not free from hierarchical thinking that divides what is truly literary and what is not, and Freedman ironically seems to think that there are texts that are “legitimate”. If such hierarchical thinking can be abandoned altogether, then there is no need for such an invitation nor claim for legitimacy. Indeed, as Jane Tolmie argues, “Fun Home’s negotiations of a modernist canon [troubles] our reliance on categories of high and low, included and excluded, straight and queer, textual and embodied” (79). Intertextuality in Fun Home has a significance that goes beyond mere stylistics or generic divisions between different literary categories; yet much of critical discussion does not think of intertextuality otherwise. 

         In the 2006 interview with Hillary Chute, Bechdel states that “I realized that the book was sort of organizing itself around different books or authors” (1005). Such statement points out that the intertextual representation in Fun Home was an organic and natural. If Fun Home is a text about traumatic experience, it is critical to understand how such an unrepresentable event came to be represented with abundant textual references. The significance of this issue becomes even more evident considering the odd relationship trauma has with representationality. In the case of Bechdel, the trauma in Fun Home is unrepresentable on many levels. The shocking revelations of Bruce’s sexual attraction to younger boys never fully come into light because it has been indirectly revealed through a photograph and through her mother’s words. Furthermore, his death as a suicide is also only speculated and thus remains unconfirmable. In this situation, the various texts Bechdel holds become the only evidence to the “detective work” (1006) she tries to conduct in order to pin down the person that Bruce was, and what was so traumatic about her relationship with her father. Nonetheless, as Tolmie argues, a trauma is “a representational limit” (86), in that a traumatic experience “shatters all potential frames of comprehension and reference” (Guerin and Hallas 3). Yet the genre of graphic narrative, in Chute’s words, “puts pressure on dominant conceptions of trauma’s unrepresentability” (182)##(2)##. This overtly visual and, in the case of Fun Home, intertextual narrative indeed poses a question regarding trauma’s representability, complicating the understanding that trauma is incomprehensible and thus representable. 

         This paper, then, discusses the intertextual mode of representing the trauma, specifically in terms of Joycean presence throughout the text, focusing on the Daedalus-Icarus myth. In his paper, ““A Vast ‘Network of Transversals’’: Labyrinthine Aesthetics in Fun Home”, K.W. Eveleth pays attention to the labyrinth as the central stylistic feature of this narrative. Arguing that the labyrinthine structure of Fun Home to emphasize the “masochistic repetition of Derridean “archive fever”” (89). Such stylistic resemblances between Fun Home and a labyrinth are significant, and also have been made clear by Bechdel herself (Chute 183). Yet, while Eveleth’s analysis of the structure is meaningful in examining the aesthetic features of Fun Home in relation to the theme of queer sexuality in the text, it falls short in reading its intertextual significance. In other words, it falls short in reading the Daedalus-Icarus myth that is pervasive in both the motif of labyrinth and the relationship between Bruce and Alison. Given that Fun Home opens with a scene of Bruce and Alison playing the Icarian games, and closes with the same reference to that same Ovidian myth, it is more than apt to consider the symbolic dimensions of the labyrinth in relation to Daedalus, the creator of that particular maze, and Icarus, its (perhaps indirect) victim.

         In this, it becomes evident that the labyrinthine structure not only functions stylistically but also thematically, in that this myth as an intertext is intricately connected to the ways in which labyrinth-creating can be an artist-becoming, and how this artist-becoming can be a way of Icarus overcoming his masterful father, Daedalus. Thus, paying attention to the intertextual representation of trauma in focus to the labyrinthine structure of Fun Home, this paper takes the opportunity to thematically understand the labyrinthine aesthetic and intertextuality. I will first discuss Bruce Bechdel as a type of Daedalus and illuminate that he also aspires to be an artist. His practice of art serves him as a point of escape from the heteronormative order that he resides in. The next section of the paper centers around the labyrinth as a motif that embodies a trauma. Delineating the parallels between the conditions of being captured in a labyrinth and being traumatized, I suggest that labyrinth-creating is also an artist-becoming. Ultimately, in the last section, being queer in Fun Home is reevaluated as doing queer. Queer doing is done through queering of intertexts, and this provides an opportunity to read stylistic features of Fun Home as themes. Bechdel’s intertextual process of representation as a therapeutic practice that not only lets Alison leave the labyrinth of Bruce’s creation, but also allows her to be a Daedalus of her own right. Alison Bechdel escapes from Bruce’s labyrinth like a Theseus, suffers his violent artfulness like an Icarus, and creates her own labyrinth like a Daedalus. Revisiting, rereading, and rewriting this modernist intertexts, Bechdel produces her own graphic labyrinth as the artist of her own making, embracing yet rising above her traumatic past. 


Before talking about whether the subaltern can speak, I ask, can we listen to the subaltern? If we can, then I want to ask, can the subaltern be represented? Lastly, if language indeed has a performative power, can representation performative reshape the social existence of certain memories and beings? Can literature play a critical role in representing memories that have long been silenced?

My research centers around the idea of literature "as a strange institution which allows one to say everything" (Jacques Derrida, 1992), and I read a certain explosive power in the idea that it can say "everything." Literature, to me, is something that stands at the intersection of social urgency and representation. I strive to navigate these axes by which any literary work is constructed, and deconstructed, the most central idea being that there is political power in the act of (un)representation itself. In this, I am always more interested in what the text does, instead of says, and how they operate, there than where they stand

Engaging with memories as a text media, I work to involve literature in historical and sociological sites in order to expand the discipline to render palpable political powers to literature as an act of activism. Literature, as a delicate tool, can narrativize the histories of disappearing communities, archive the stories of underrepresented communities, and circulate these memories to preserve them. Exploring various means and meanings of representation functions as defiance against social erasure, and such exploration not only allows us to access and assess the complex narratives of the forgotten memories, but also to analyze the ways in which these narratives continue to haunt and shape the present. 

I am currently working on a multidisciplinary project that archives memories surrounding gijichon. Gijichon, otherwise known as US Military camptowns, are areas that are institutionally exploited by both Korean and American militarism, and systematically erased from the public history. However, what my experience of working at Durebang (an organization working for the lives of gijichon current and past sex workers whose main clients are American soldiers since 1986) highlighted is the very real intimacy and a sense of community that these workers form between themselves, and even with the soldiers. While the previous gijichon research mostly focuses on political and social marginalization of the area, I became acutely aware of their micro-resistance against the public discourse that fundamentally others them. This current project collects memory fragments such as newspaper articles from the 1950s to 1990s, novelistic representations of the site, various records of oral history, and past and current pictures of these camptowns. While this project primarily aims to archive these buried memories and sites, it also looks to theorize the act of archiving as something that can subversively rewrite and reclaim the past. 

- Alex Heeyeon Kil, 2020.


Naming the Unnamed and the Unnamable

Shamanic Responsibilities of Representation in Heinz Insu Fenkl’s Memories of My Ghost Brother

Shamanic Writing

         A memory is a narrative written regarding a certain reading of an event, which continuously interacts with other narratives, both internal and external. Memories are palimpsestuous, as they are always reconstituted by individual and collective readings and rewritings. Memories fluctuate between omissions and exaggerations, mutate as they encounter different contexts, and redefine time. Memories are haunting in deconstructive ways through which time can no longer be conceived as a linear progression, but as something that runs backwards and forwards, dispersing into thousands of directions. Lastly, memories have the critical and political potential to create ruptures in established historical narratives. In examining this potential, Peter Verovšek states that “memory is needed to sustain the constructive power of individuals and unique human beings within self-consciously defined communities” (6). “The constructive power” here refers to the communicative political power that defines an “actor or a group in a social setting” (5), which arises from the sense of being within a certain community. By this definition, memories, as much as they deconstruct, they also construct, and reconstruct. They become the bedrock of certain communities, built upon shared experiences. Then, circulating memories within a society constructs, and reconstructs communities, and through that very circulation, the legitimacy of the communities and their shared pasts is established and actualized.

         Yet what happens to welled-up memories of an eroding landscape where its inhabitants have disappeared into social amnesia, erased if not forgotten? What happens to the memories that are not circulated in social and public discourses, when these memories are all that evince the past existence of a certain landscape and its inhabitants? What power do those memories have, and what defines that community? Heinz Insu Fenkl’s Memories of My Ghost Brother (1996) is a text that arises from these questions. Growing up in a US Military camptown, otherwise known as gijichon ##(1)##, the narrator questions the unquestionably natural phenomenon of evaporation: 

[The teacher] said that the marks showed evaporation, which was what happened to water when the sun shined on it. But the sun never touched the jar while it sat on the cabinet. I was sure she just took a sip every day after school, and her story about evaporation was just another American lie. (117)

         In the voice of the 8 year old narrator, the above statement speaks an important aspect of life in this town. The sad memories never circulate outside gijichon, only collecting and flooding within, becoming an unbearable deluge that never evaporates. There is the narrator’s young cousin, Gannan, who comes from a rural town to work as a prostitute, only to hang herself when a “yellow-haired GI” (12) impregnates her and refuses to marry her. When she dies, “after the second and the third monsoon seasons had passed, Gannan’s grave had eroded away to nothing. It had become part of the landscape, and no one remembered where it was” (56). With her grave disappeared, her life and death are only left in memories. There is a half-black boy James, who the narrator once swears to be brothers with but never sees again after: his mother drowns him to marry a white GI. Learning of James’ death, the narrator says, “[i]f it had been possible, I would have remembered James back to life” (211). The blame, however, has nowhere to go but scatters like the “raindrops in a storm” (232). And there is a well, next to a GI bar with the ironic name of Apollo Club, that swallows a maiden jumping in to find her baby boy she accidentally drops into. The grievances in that well, of course, do not evaporate, and are only “paved over” (200) with the well itself. The narrator wells up inside him both the magnitude of oppressive power and the depth of grief that are too immense to grasp. Losses in gijichon are everyday events, and they go unmourned, unrepresented, then forgotten.

         Precisely because the memories of gijichon are socially erased from public discourses, the function of an author that articulates such lost memories become crucial in representing thing town. When the object of loss has long been faded into oblivion, Memories explores the responsibilities of an author as a shaman, who, through representation, conjures and protects the otherwise irrecoverable yet inescapably haunting past. I define the shaman according to its hànzì composition, 巫, this signifier being also what closes the narrative of Memories. 巫 signifies “shaman” in hànzì, and it is constituted by placing 工, “craftsmanship,” between two 人s, “human.” Quite literally, the 巫 refers to the craftsmanship of connecting two separate entities. Then, this composition of 巫 sheds the inscrutable aura off shamanism and presents it as a matter of connection. And it is this connection that the author-shaman crafts in his representations of gijichon in Memories. The shaman connects absence and presence by naming the erased deaths and bringing them back into the narrative. The shaman connects the powerlessness of the marginalized and the power of the mainstream by illuminating the ways in which power reaches to those absolutely distant from it. Responding to the erased and forgotten narratives of gijichon and restoring them back into presence, the crafting of these connections is the shamanic responsibility of representation.

         When the lives of gijichon are vulnerable to deaths and deaths vulnerable to erasure, it becomes imperative to look at the sociopolitical landscape through a microscope. It is important to investigate the macrostructures that create the specific biopolitical exploitation of the site ##(2)##. However, in the process of such investigation, the inhabitants of gijichon disappear into the vague and becomes abstracted into a simplified binary of the victim and the victimizer. Indeed, governments that communicate across the Pacific also communicate in the yanggongju’s bedroom. Yet the intricacy of gijichon necessitates a shamanic engagement with this apparently political, sociological, and historical site. This engagement can conjure the lost details of human life and embody the glimpses of structural exploitation. In other words, we have to look at history from the bottom, not from the top where powers operate.

         For this task, I redefine what Michel Foucault calls the author-function in “What Is an Author?” (1969) as a shaman-function in the case of Memories. I argue for the responsibility of shaman-writing who conducts the performative act of representation. In the lecture, Foucault suggests the need for an author-function to replace the dead Author who had been killed by Roland Barthes in 1967. The author function is defined by Foucault as something that “characterize[s] the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a society” (124), thereby conceiving this function as a discursive production of meanings. 

         Based on Foucault’s proposition, I define the shaman-function as something that conjures “the existence, circulation, and operation of memories within a society” (emphasis added). The shaman performatively evokes and reconstitutes lost memories through the act of performative representation. The performative power of representation is the power to generate social discourses that reconstitutes memory, and in Memories, the shaman borrows the tongue of the dead to plurivocally conjure the stories of the erased and enunciates the ghostly presence of the powers that create both their tragedies and erasure.

         In addition, I understand representation not only as a “proxy” and “portrait” (Spivak 276) but also as a re-present-ation. Gayatri Spivak criticizes the conversation between Foucault and Gilles Deleuze celebrating the end of representation as the beginning of practical action against oppression. She makes the critical observation that, in their conversation, “[t]wo senses of representation [i.e. ‘proxy’ and ‘portrait’] are being run together” (275). She argues that Foucault and Deleuze assume that the “oppressed subjects [can] speak, act, and know for themselves” beyond political representation, and that this assumption “leads to an essentialist, utopian politics” (276), by undermining the necessity of proxy for the subaltern. However, ‘representation’ also carries significance as a re-present-ation, as in bringing the absent, the invisible, and the past back into the presence. In this sense, the portrait is the proxy: the portrait performs the role of proxy for those erased and dead. The function of shaman-writing is the performative conjuring of a social existence of this disappearing narratives. 

Naming the Nameless and the Unnamable

         “Let me tell you something important, [...] [i]f you ever count on someone to do the talking for you and you don’t know what they’re really saying, you gotta assume he’s covering his own ass” (256), says the narrator’s father. A white American Sergeant of German descent, this is a man who does not want to be seen with his Korean wife and Amerasian son because it “undermines his authority” (131). What he says about his experience with interpreters in Vietnam is quite telling. He says they are especially untrustworthy among Vietnamese, who “you could never trust” (256) to begin with. Sergeant Fenkl assumes that interpretation is always deceptively self-centered on the interpreter, and that the autonomy of speech can be claimed by anyone. Yet the ability to speak is not granted universally. The narrator of Memories as a shaman opens up a textual space in which the voices of previously silenced people can coexist, providing an interpretation through which the narrative becomes a collectively palimpsestuous process.

         The narrator speaks through the first-person focal point of the “I,” which, in the process of storytelling, embraces much more narratives than those of already specifically named and demarcated authorial Fenkl’s own. The “I” is a collective “I”. The shaman inscribes double layer of narration-reading and narration-writing. Memories is constituted by two types of chapters, one in which entire texts are italicized and the other not. The italicized chapters connote a temporal distance from the events narrated, whereas the non-italicized ones relate the past events in the present tense. Both layers are a complex intermingling of overt dangers, precarious excitement, and melancholia. At the same time, the italicized chapters comment and reflect upon the pasts represented in the non-italicized chapters. Therefore, the narrator becomes a reader in the former, and a writer in the latter. It is this double narration that makes representation a re-present-ation, through which the past can be uncovered onto a palpable text, and as a result, into the palpable presence. The distance between the reading narrator and the writing narrator that enables the plurivocality of the narrative, and the first-person perspective “I” becomes an empty signifier that anyone can enter and claim. It is through such scission that the perspective focalized on the “I” becomes not about “covering [one’s] ass,” but instead opens up for the silenced “I”s of gijichon can speak through. The openness of the “I” is facilitated specifically by the narrator’s awareness of his own emptiness and timelessness. The reader-narrator says, “My body was hollow. It was empty, although it held my shape, and into the contoured vessel the sky came pouring in like a bright blue liquid, and I felt that I had no outside and no inside” (90-91). And later in the narrative, the writer-narrator says “I was in some timeless state, in the past or caught there, seeing beyond memory” (212). The reader becomes an emptiness where his internal narratives and the external narratives of gijichon are blended and represented. The writer becomes timeless, where his representation of “beyond memory” becomes a stage where the significance of the past presently play out. Opening up the “I,” the narrative becomes a space in which heterogeneous voices and timeframes are speaking simultaneously in a connected narrative. The shamanic connection, then, is a collaboration of reading and writing.

         Protecting the text like a cover on the dedication page, the opening signifier 明月 declares the narrative a prayer. A word constituted with “bright,” 明, and “moon,” 月 in hànzì, 明月 refers to the lunar day of the moon in August, when people pray to the moon. The 明月, coming prior to the narrative, calls for and appeals to the moon as the object of prayer. The figure of the moon resonates with Gannan, whose “face was like the moon” (10). Gannan becomes the concretized figure of the abstract moon, and because Gannan is nameless, this parallel is significant. Gannan means “just born,” which implies that her naming had been deferred until the moment of her death##(3)##. Gannan lives and dies unnamed, and this prayer is to the moon, Gannan, and other similarly nameless people. The narrator prays to “give them peace” by naming (270), which he does by inscribing a story to the nameless. The telling of the story re-presents such seemingly trivial yet irreplaceably substantial details as her giggles, moanings (28), taking off her makeup (10), the works she took on herself (19), and the candies she brought for the narrator (27). Her namelessness is filled by stories, and each detail of her story breathes life into what was once a nameless figure. As such, focusing on the details of daily life, what the shaman’s representation conjures are the unnamed tragedies of gijichon. The narrator says, “when I heard some distinct word, I would see an image, and when I heard a name I would see a face. If I caught a piece of some anecdote I remembered, I could suddenly see its entirety—the story of each detail, the secret meanings” (208). A word epitomizes an entire story, each name embraces delicate details, and each detail embodies lived narratives: the micro details of the everyday reflect the macro-powers looming behind the tragedies. 

         It is the shaman-writing that open up a well of memories regarding this rarely represented landscape, the erased narratives demonstrating the ways in which the violent and distant conflicts of Militarism leave its inhabitants bare, vulnerable, and silent. The micro-tragedies of gijichon make it hard to define the town simply as a manifestation of Militarial politics where a country comes to be instrumentalized by and subjugated to an imperializing country. The narrator reflects, 

The war was fifteen years past with Korea in an uneasy peace, and yet Pupyong seemed to have some fatality nearly every day: the shoeshine boy who was run over by a train as he tried to pull scrap metal off the tracks; the delivery boy crushed between two buses when he tried to take a shortcut through the terminal; the bar girl killed by a truck as she tried to free her high heels from a patch of fresh tar on the main road. (138)

         Working in and for the world created by Military Imperialism, these vulnerable deaths bear the weight of a complex interplay of powers. What this passage demonstrates are not unfortunate deaths, they are deaths by poverty that is created by the same ideology that engendered both Korean War and US occupation of South Korea. The shoeshine boy tries to “pull scrap metal off” to sell; the delivery boy tries to “take a shortcut” to deliver goods in time; and the bar girl tries to “free her high heels,” as she is not free from poverty and needs her heels to coquet at work. While each detail of each narrative flutters in their vulnerability, the performativity of writing establishes the collectivity of gijichon, creating not only a literary but social space where that community is connected back to relevance and brought into remembrance. The shaman names the nameless and the unnameable. Through writing, the shaman opens up the well of memories. And what floats in the flood is the ghostly operations of power, and the palpable struggles of the powerless, intertwined unexpectedly despite their distance. 

The Indefinite Remnants

         Pupyong ASCOM (Army Support Command), the spatial setting of Memories, is long gone, as most of the complex handed over to the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense in 1973 (“Camp Market”). US Army Garrison Humphreys, located in Pyeongtaek forty miles south of Seoul, includes the US Army’s busiest airfield in the Pacific and is the center of the most expansive construction and relocation project in the history of US Department of Defense. It is also the largest overseas US Army post in the world. Under the agreement of both Korean and American governments to move the headquarters of US Forces Korea and United Nations Command to Camp Humphreys, it is estimated that it will become home to 36,000 soldiers (USAG Camp Humphreys). As the USFK prepares its relocation to Camp Humphreys, the clubs and bar girls, most of them from the Philippines now, are also preparing to relocate. The public discourse of this relocation project is either absent, or concentrated on Pyeongtaek’s real estate prices. Pyeongtaek is one of the most popular cities to make real estate investments in 2019 (Financial News). Newspaper articles including the keyword “gijichon” is the highest in 1971, with ninety-two articles total in three major platforms: Kyunghyang, Dong-a, Maeil Business. In 1999, it decreases to thirty-nine (Naver News Library). During Park’s regime (1963-1979), it becomes a political and social taboo to represent gijichon in media platforms (Kim). Recently, it is close to impossible to see the word gijichon in any public platforms. Yet the US Military maintains and flouts its presence on the Korean peninsula, with occasional news on crimes committed by the GIs, or on President Trump’s demand that South Korea increase their share of the cost of American troops (“Trump’s Lose-Lose Proposition in Korea”).

         The ongoing hostilities on the divided peninsula perhaps assure the legitimacy of the presence of the US troops in the peninsula’s southern half. What matters to the literary engagement with the site of gijichon, however, is not whether the Military’s presence is legitimate or not. What matters is how one can archive and restore the stories precariously drowning in the well of memories, and how one can represent those unnamed and the unnameable. The narrator says, “[the dead] must be so lonely down there in the cold, dark water” (191): stories and representation solicidates remembrance, and in remembrance, a community. If, as Verovšek states, communal memory “not only frees individuals to rethink and reinterpret their own experience, it also allows them to reframe communal narratives by drawing on events that lie beyond their individual experience” (9), the shamanic powers of representing memory are indeed performatively palpable and socially discursive. The palimpsestuous reading and writing of the past opens the narrative space to reframe the past as re-readable and re-writable. The plurivocally speaking “I,” and the multitude of stories illuminate the powers that create and erase the past. The shaman speaks through the unresolved silence of gijichon. Standing upon numbers and figures, the shaman restores their narratives. This representation cannot resuscitate the dead back into life, but it can create a less lonely place##(4)##

(Spring 2020)

1 Giji, a camp, and chon, a town, gijichon refers to the areas developed around US Military bases across South Korea since 1945, when Korea was liberated from Japanese colonization and when the US decided to occupy the southern half of the peninsula. In addition, The Romanization of Korean words throughout the paper follows the guidelines provided by The National Institute of Korean Language, Republic of Korea. However, in the case of those words that appear in the primary text, such as Pupyong (Bupyeong according to 2019 guidelines), follows the spelling in the text. (
2 Katharine Moon’s Sex Among Allies (1997) analyzes the political administrations that actually created the military prostitution for the US Military in Korea. Naming the prostitution a “permanent fixture of US-Korea relations” (27), she states, “[because] the institutionalizing of military prostitution involves a social, economic, and political process, overseas military prostitution must be examined in the context of interaction between foreign governments and among governments and local groups” (12). Importantly, Moon cites the following 1965 report from the American Office of the Inspector General of the Eighth Army: “It cannot be expected from the Korean Government that this Government, which receives a considerable amount of its gross national products from activities associated with prostitution, etc., will be enthusiastic and sincere in enforcing measures cutting down this considerable source of income for this Government. As one Korean official of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs put it, ‘You Americans are asking us to cut a source of revenue which demands no Government funds but provides livelihood for uncounted thousands’” (44). Yet it is questionable how “enthusiastic and sincere” the American Military was. Jung-mi Park’s studies identifies that the penicillin used for treatments at systemized STD tests for gijichon sex workers was provided by the medical centers on the US bases (22). Unsurprisingly, these tests were carried about with substantial violence and against the workers’ will, and the treatment with penicillin itself often caused deaths (24). Equally unsurprisingly, it was the Korean police force, local health centers, and the American Military (20) that conducted these tests (24).
3 Because of frequent child deaths, it was a common practice to defer the naming of babies, especially the girls. They were instead called by words like gannan (newborn), or aegi (baby).
4 In 2017, activists of Durebang and prior sex workers in gijichon plead for State Compensation, and its trial happened on February 8, 2018. The court observed some of the state managements in gijichon were indeed unlawful. Most importantly, “the Seoul High Court—the court ruling on this case—acknowledged that the state had justified and promoted the prostitution of US Military ‘comfort women’ via the operation and management of military camptowns, and the state unlawfully detained the women” (

Works Cited

  • Foucault, Michel. Language, Counter-memory, Practice. Translated and edited by Donald F. Bouchard, Cornell UP, 1977.

  • Fenkl, Heinz Insu. Memories of My Ghost Brother. Bo-Leaf, 2005.

  • Moon, Katharine H.S.. Sex Among Allies. Columbia UP, 1997.

  • Naver News Library. Naver, Accessed 5 May 2019.

  • Park, Jung-mi. “Social History of Korean Gijichon Prostitution Policy, 1953-1995: Cold War Biopolitics, State of Exception, and the Paradox of Sovereignty.” Translated by Heeyeon Kil, Korean Journal of Sociology. vol. 49, no. 2, 2015, pp. 1-33.

  • Kim, Hyojung. “Shocking Portrayal of Gijichon Yanggongju’... Reflects the Double Standards on Them.” Translated by Heeyeon Kil, The Hankyoreh, 1 November 2019, Accessed 11 November 2019.

  • “Pyeongtaek Real Estates Market Coming into Life.” Translated by Heeyeon Kil, Financial News, 7 November 2019, Accessed 11 November 2019.

  • U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, Public Affairs. Welcome to Camp Humphreys, South Korea. US Army, 18 November 2018, Accessed 11 November 2019.

  • “Camp Market.” Global Security Accessed 11 November 2019.

  • Editorial Board, “Trump’s Lose-Lose Proposition in Korea.” The New York Times, 21 November 2019, Accessed 21 November 2019.