Romanticism in the Peripheries: Choe Jae-seo’s Literary Criticism in Colonial Korea

This essay explores the possibilities of literary criticism in a colonial situation by tracing the career of Choe Jae-seo (1908-64), who was one of the first scholars of English literature to write literary criticism in colonial Korea. Choe began his literary studies with a particular focus on English Romanticism at Kyungsung Imperial University, and Romantic aesthetics became a major site of struggle for Choe in finding his voice as a colonized critic. Throughout this struggle, Romanticism carries the burden of Choe’s historical and political consciousness by becoming the point of tension between literature and politics, East and West, universal cosmopolitanism and totalitarian imperialism. At the end of this road, Choe arrives at the possibility of a Romantic cosmopolitan criticism, which continues to call for a critical vigilance against colonial oppression and political violence.