Nostalgia in the Book of Psalms: Reconsidering Collective Dimensions of "I" through a Postcolonial Lens of Korean Resistance Poetry

“Reconsidering the 'I' voices in Psalms, this dissertation excavates the possible hidden layers of meaning underneath colonized psalmists’ nostalgias, which are inseparably tied to the collective loss of their temple. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Chwi-Woon Kim Baylor University Contact Me

About this dissertation fellowship

When the Japanese empire suppressed all forms of Korean speech during colonial occupation (1910–1945), Korean poets disguised their resistance through “folk” and “romantic” poems that expressed their longing for home as an allegory for the loss of their nation. These poems came to be known as Korean resistance poetry. A key feature of Korean resistance poetry is “hyangsu,” which literally means yearning for home. I reveal three poetic manifestations of “hyangsu” as an interpretive lens for Psalms: (1) allegories of a lost country; (2) paradoxical longings for home; and (3) dialectical recollections of indigenous culture. These three manifestations of “hyangsu” in Korean resistance poetry provide a foray into the possibility that the subjugated “I” in Psalms embodies a collective pathos of exile under colonial rule. Poetic expressions of personal grief that allegorize national loss in Korean resistance poetry offer a new interpretive framework for understanding an individual psalmist’s expressions of grief within the hidden context of loss over a colonized temple. The paradoxical nature of “hyangsu”—an endless longing for a lost home that cannot be recovered—can illumine the psalmist’s yearning for divine presence. The connection between Korean poets’ unfulfilled longing and imagined utopian spaces may explain the tension between the psalmists’ desire for a physical temple and construction of alternative spaces for God’s dwelling beyond the colonized temple. Finally, Korean poets’ dialectical perspectives of their cultural past offer a fresh way to look at colonized psalmists’ ambivalent attitudes toward traditional royal images in relation to the colonized temple.