Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Community of Letters: The T'oegye School and the Political Culture of Choso˘n Korea, 1545–1800
by Cho, Hwisang, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2010, 364; 3447866
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the process of political empowerment of local Confucian scholars in early modern Korea from the middle of the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century by studying the development of the T'oegye school, which is acknowledged as the most influential Confucian school of the Chosoˇn (1392–1910). In this critical period, Confucian literati formed a robust group in local societies based upon their shared Neo-Confucian ethos emphasizing the embodiment of learning in everyday life; thus, they were able to collectively raise their voices on state politics. Differently from the existing interpretations centering on the power struggle between the state and the scholarly community in court politics and its extension to local societies, I redefine the meaning of "the political" in the Chosoˇn context by positing the state as one of the many institutions that formed the whole society. I explicate how T'oegye school scholars maintained their scholarly and political authorities, despite their marginalization from court politics, through their persistent pursuit of textual domination to expand their local scholarly networks and create their self-representation as the legitimate inheritors of Confucian tradition. Focusing on the simultaneous developments of practice-oriented Neo-Confucian moral philosophy, participatory writing genres and political mobilization of local Confucian scholars, I demonstrate that academic, textual and political grounds inextricably interacted and formed the intellectual culture of early modern Korea as a whole. I argue that Confucian scholars' participation in textual practices created a new kind of authority, because the issues discussed in academic writings maintained a reciprocal relation with the new political culture emphasizing the embodiment of Confucian learning in political practices. This new relation between scholars and power reinforced the political authority of local Confucian scholars, as they formed a sociotextual community in which subjects at the local level promoting Confucian values concurrently established the role of individual scholars in national discourses as members of a political public. Thus, it became a legitimate way of life and an effective means of sociopolitical empowerment for the lettered people of the Chosoˇn to devote themselves to Confucian scholarship in localities outside the capital.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Haboush, JaHyun Kim
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: History
Keywords: Choson, Confucianism, Korea, Political culture, Sociotextual community, T'oegye school
Publication Number: 3447866
ISBN: 978-1-124-53322-3
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