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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

Women on the Borders of the Ladies’ Quarters and the Ginyeo House: The Mixed Self-Consciousness of Ginyeo in Late Joseon

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2008, v.48 no.1, pp.136-159
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2008.48.1.136

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Abstract

As both a government slave and an entertainer for the court and the upper class, the ginyeowas a liminal being who belonged neither to the cultural cen-ter nor the periphery. Besides serving the national interest with her artistic accomplishments as a yeoak(female court artist), her duties were to providethe men of the yangban(aristocratic) class with a medium of social life andsexual pleasure.However, by the late Joseon period, the image of the chaste lady started todefine the dominant representation of the ginyeo.Virtuous ginyeowhoseemed to possess the self-consciousness of the yangban class began to appear.This chaste ginyeohas been admired as a paragon of Confucian virtue. This new icon of the virtuous ginyeonot only shows that Confucianhegemony had spread to the sphere of everyday life, but also presents a sexual double standard for women of this social class. In particular, the mixed self- consciousness of virtuous ginyeois a historical index of the liminality of theginyeomaximized at the point where the formula of desire intersects the dualfunctioning of gender in Joseon society. Furthermore, the formation of the virtuous ginyeoin the late Joseon shows how female sexuality was recon-structed in the premodern social context.

keywords
yeoak liminality sexuality yeollyeo romantic love double stan-dard Kang Dam-un virtuous ginyeo Jeon Bulgwan Confucian ideology

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