Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Downing, John

Second Advisor

Tudor, Deborah

Abstract

This study explores the patriarchal unconscious underlying the Korean horror genre through a critical feminist psychoanalytical reading of the family dynamics and female agency in three landmark texts, namely, The Public Cemetery under the Moon (Kwon, Chul-hwi, 1967), Mother's Han (Lee, Yusup, 1970) and Woman's Wail (Lee, Hyuksu, 1986). By closely examining these horror film texts using insights from feminist psychoanalytic approaches and situating the texts within historical events and popular culture in the Park Chung Hee era, this study produces an understanding of the cultural dilemmas of women's desire and agency, and especially those of mothers. These textual analyses demonstrate that Confucian virtues, especially as been reinvented under Park Chung Hee's leadership to facilitate developmentalist goals, have formed the roots that shape the mother-child relationship into one that both parties want to dissolve. Through placing the cinematic representation of the monstrous feminine within a historical understanding of Korean horror cinema, this dissertation also demonstrates that the sacred, perfect image of the mother as it is known in Korean popular culture today is in fact historically produced formation within the genre. Besides, with Woman's Wail, a very characteristic Confucian female monster is discussed, namely, the mother-in-law. With this very rare type of the female monster, the misogynistic gender politics within Confucian patriarchy is saliently represented. The feminist psychoanalytic discussion on the spectatorship focuses on the interplay between the image and the Confucian female spectator. In a close reading of the two women's desires in The Public Cemetery under the Moon, this study explores the ways in which the female spectator may find visual pleasures in Korean horror cinema and the ways in which they are communicated and negotiated vis-à-vis the matrix of gender politics in Confucian culture. Taken together, this work demonstrates how the Confucian value system re-invented in the Park Chung Hee era has been a crucial apparatus for women's oppression, and at the same time, how women's agency is nonetheless evinced despite the strictures of Confucianism.

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