CFP: New Perspectives on the History of Books and Reading in Korea

Ever since Maurice Courant, a French diplomat-turned-scholar, published his monumental Bibliographie Coréenne in 1894, much ink has been spilled on the study of books in Korea. But where is the field headed now? In current research on the history of the book, especially in English-language scholarship, the Korean experience is more often than not written out or treated as an aberration: How was it that a country that had developed and widely used the technology for movable metal type printing as early as the thirteenth century had to wait until the turn of the nineteenth century to witness the rise of commercial printing of vernacular-language materials? The Eurocentric, print-oriented view tends to overlook the historical validity of various non-print forms of the book, as well as the physical instantiation of literacies and practices of writing and reading that flourished in Korea from the fourteenth to the early twentieth centuries.

We invite papers committed to twin projects: critically revisiting existing characterizations of Korea’s book culture while also conducting in-depth bibliographical and physical examinations of original texts that register the practices of pertinent genres, people, and institutions. For example, we look forward to receiving proposals that will shed light on questions like the following: What cultural perceptions and attitudes were reflected in books and the wide range of activities pertaining to their production (paper supply, carving, binding, design, illustration, etc.), circulation, collecting, commercialization, transcription, personalization, de- and re-construction, honoring and discrediting, vernacularization, translation, annotation (glossing, marginalia, commentary, illumination, etc.), documentation, note-taking, anthologizing, republication, reprinting, and digitization? What books were involved in the defining events that shaped the materiality of books and changed practices of reading?

The conference will take place on December 8, 2022 at Harvard University. The one-day conference will consist of a half-day workshop to discuss each paper, hands-on examination of select materials held by the Harvard-Yenching Library, and a roundtable discussion. If you are interested in participating in the conference, please send a paper proposal (250-300 words) accompanied by a CV to Si Nae Park ( and Suyoung Son ( by March 1, 2022. Selected participants are expected to send in a paper draft by the end of August 2022.