This study examines the appearance of interpretive communities of popular readers in the late Chosŏn period. Popular readers formed around fictional texts that could be borrowed from circulating libraries or purchased from private publishers. While sources that directly address the phenomenon of popular reading during the Chosŏn period are rare, considerable information can be gleaned from Western language publications on Korea and careful attention to the material construction of popular fiction texts. Many Western visitors to Korea had a particular interest in Korean print culture, and their writings can present some valuable insights into the social reception of popular texts and the distribution of vernacular fictional works through markets, bookstores and circulating libraries. The material construction of popular fiction texts also witnessed major changes during this period, and fictional works produced by private publishers and circulating libraries assumed physical forms that were highly suited for the reading practices and preferences of popular readers. While considerably more research on this topic needs to be done, the findings of this study suggests that popular readers could be found throughout late Chosŏn society, and they may have been highly concentrated in areas such as Seoul and among certain social groups like elite women.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.