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Rewriting the Feminine Construction of a Nation in Comfort Woman by Nora Okja Keller

Chow Sheat Fun

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 28, Issue 4, December 2020

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47836/pjssh.28.4.28

Published: 24 December 2020

This essay highlights the way Keller’s novel, Comfort Woman (1997) explores the connection between women’s sexual bodies, colonialism and Korean nationalism. Through the resistance of heroic women characters against patriarchal definitions and feminization of a colonized nation, Keller narrates subversive feminist resistance to humiliating inscriptions of patriarchy and colonialism onto the sexual bodies of women. The text is closely analysed using tools of literary devices, in particular, subversive strategies and the idea of silences as a tool and a theme to convey the unspoken and the unspeakable. Soon Hyo’s passive silences as a comfort woman in the comfort camps and her transformation later to paranormal articulations as a shaman is interpreted as powerful forms of resistance against patriarchy’s inscription upon her body. Her silent passivity, re-interpreted as a form of active resistance becomes more meaningful as she wrestles back the identities and recognition for the thousands of comfort women that would otherwise be forgotten. Comfort Woman inquires into the links between languages, silences and subjectivity, colonial domination and Korean nationalism, sexuality and nation, resisting any attempts at separating the links. Keller invoked the power of performance and silences in the form of “strange” articulations and tropes which were culturally specific as subversive means of re-telling her story and inscribing new meanings onto women’s sexual bodies, thus rewriting the feminine constructions of a nation.

ISSN 0128-7702

e-ISSN 2231-8534

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