Tasan Chŏng Yagyong’s (1762–1836) philosophy is often noted for its departure from the mainstream Neo-Confucian thought of his time, particularly for its conception of the human mind as being distinguished from the cosmos. This aspect of Tasan’s philosophy implies a new paradigm of human subjectivity, which would have ramifications for his creative work. Thus, the question: How does this new subjectivity manifest itself in Tasan’s poetry? This paper analyses the characteristics of Tasan’s social poems that reflect his distinctive paradigm as follows: ethnic self-consciousness, heightened realism, oppositional images, anthropocentric themes, and a poetics of subject-object independence. Tasan’s distinctive subjectivity differs from the mainstream poetic trends of his time, but its moral engagement with the object of social malaise nonetheless remains faithful to the ethical goals of classical Confucianism.

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