Cho Hwisang begins The Power of the Brush with an analogy between Chosŏn epistolary practice and today's internet culture. The prologue clearly shows the academic orientations of this book; Cho aims to change the way scholars approach the subject. By broadening the concept and boundary of letters and, more importantly, by bringing attention to its sociopolitical significance, Cho shifts the discourse away from content analysis to new issues—format and materiality, communal function, and performative aspects. Structure-wise, the book follows a chronological order.

Chapter 1 provides a historical overview of Chosŏn epistolary practice, focusing on its languages, gender, and social environment. Chapter 2 explores “spiral letters,” a peculiar format in which the letter sheet is rotated 90 degrees—180 degrees at times—for reading and writing on each side. Cho suggests four persuasive hypotheses for the origin and development of the format: saving textual space, calligraphic aesthetics, communal reading, and epistolary fashion. Cho...

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