Thursday, June 23, 2016

Major new academic essay, in which Sad Peninsula features prominently

Let's call it the "snooping self on the Web" discovery of the year. I was checking out Sad Peninsula’s holdings on yesterday when I found that someone has published a major new piece of scholarship on comfort women novels, in which my book features prominently. Professor Jeongyun Ko of Dong-A University has written “‘Good’ Comfort Women Novel? Ethics and Representational Tactics of Korean Comfort Women Novels in English” for the academic journal Korean Association for Feminist Studies in English Literature. Professor Ko’s essay touches on the various themes and tropes found throughout the corpus of comfort women fiction, but she focuses her analysis on two recent novels to join the genre – mine and Kalliope Lee’s Sunday Girl (Psychopomp Press, 2013).

I know by now that one must take all literary “accomplishments” with a certain grain of salt, but I find myself especially chuffed by this delightful news. While academic journals don’t typically have a broad audience, I have to believe that a large scholarly essay such as this one is less ephemeral than your average work-a-day book review. This paper may well be read, discussed and cited by like-minded academics over the years, and hopefully lead some of them to Sad Peninsula. What’s more, many authors have to wait until they’re dead before they have any scholarship written about them, so I’m grateful that this work of mine has gotten some academic love less than two years out of the gate.

As well, Professor Ko has many flattering things to say about Sad Peninsula. In comparing its narrative approach to other comfort women fiction, she writes:

Sad Peninsula concedes two new important thematic focuses that have not been fully explored in other comfort women novels in English. First, the question of ethics and representation of comfort women is scrutinized within the text through the depiction of “foreigner” Michael’s fascination with Eun-young’s past as a comfort woman. Second, Eun-young’s narrative, which unfolds her life back in Korea, not just the enslavement experiences, presents a powerful voice of a Korean female heroine who is more than just a comfort woman trapped in a victim trope.

To read the essay in full, go to the journal issue’s landing page and then click on the “4.Ko.pdf” link (you may have to hunt for it – it’s tiny!) to download the file.


  1. Nice! I loved your novel -- when I finished it I kept saying 'how the hell did this not get nominated for loads of prizes?' So I'm happy you're getting even just a small piece of the attention that its due.

  2. Thanks so much, Emily.Yeah, Sad Peninsula got zero prize attention but this essay certainly is a consolation. Onwards!

  3. Great to read about this, Mark, and about The Slip also.