Debating the Korean New Woman: Imagining Henrik Ibsen's "Nora" in Colonial Era Korea

Hyaeweol Choi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House caused a global sensation when first performed in the nineteenth century. Nora, the play's protagonist, became an icon for women, an emblematic figure representing the pursuit of selfhood. This article aims to historicise the figure of Nora in Korean gender politics as a representation of both the quintessence of modernity and the antithesis of "womanly virtue". It specifically examines the tensions in the Korean perception of the character by juxtaposing the adapted representation of Nora that appeared in a Korean novel with the lives of actual New Women, some of whom were labelled in the press as "Korea's Nora". Through a close examination of the creative process that took place in the introduction, circulation and appropriation of A Doll's House in colonial Korea, the article demonstrates how the play served not only as a vehicle for experiencing the modern self, but as a proxy for critiquing the notion of Western modernity and feminism that had yet to be localised. It also reveals the significant chasm between the hyperbolic image of the modern Western woman and the locally rooted gender politics among Korean New Women. Such a chasm reflects the tension between local/national demands and transnational lures that both women and men experienced in envisioning modern womanhood.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)59-77
    JournalAsian Studies Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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