This essay tracks the circulation and anticolonial reinvention of European modernist epiphanies in Korean modernist prose. The intertextuality of these epiphanies, the authors contend, enables Pak T’aewŏn, Yi Sang, and Yi Hyosŏk to disclose the fraudulence of Japanese cosmopolitanism and imperial modernization, while focalizing the possibilities and limitations of engaging Asian colonial modernity with European forms. In localizing the European epiphany, and ambivalently acknowledging Japanese versions of it, the Korean modernists generate significant irony to interrogate the impulse to wrest concentrated moments of insight, “bliss,” or transcendence from the colonial everyday. Perhaps most disquieting is the realization that the exposure of imperialism’s “fakeness” lacks the capacity to remedy the material, or literary, conditions of coloniality. Ultimately, Pak, Yi Sang, and Yi Hyosŏk deploy the epiphany to assert the need for a more reflective, neither Japanese nor European, vision; they remain deeply pessimistic, however, about the consummation of one within colonial modernity.

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