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The Master Who Mistook Himself for a Monster: History as Artifice in Park Chan-wook's Oldboy

Colloquium | September 16 | 4 p.m. |  Institute of East Asian Studies (2223 Fulton, 6th Floor)

Peter Paik, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS)

Park Chan-wook's most famous film, Oldboy, evokes polarized responses among critics and film scholars alike. Its detractors dismiss the film as a superficial exercise in stylized violence and gratuitous imagery. Film scholars have used critical paradigms drawn from Marxism and post-structuralism to interpret the film. This talk seeks to go beyond these approaches to examine Oldboy as an allegory of the South Korean experience of compressed modernity. It argues that the rapid development of South Korea has enabled historical types to flourish that have become unfamiliar in the affluent societies of the West, in particular the figure of the master who can conquer his desires and overcome his fear of death.

Drawing on the theoretical work of Nietzsche, Alexandre Kojéve, and Alexis de Tocqueville, this talk explores the question of what it means to create and portray such a human type once a democratic consumer society has emerged and closed off the possibility for any kind of authentic difference, especially the aristocratic values that have to do with the capacity to rise above oneself, one's physical appetites, and materialistic desires., 510-642-5674