Photography, Poetry, and Polyphony: Postmemory of The Gwangju Massacre in Han Kang’s Human Acts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Having started her literary career as a poet, South Korean writer Han Kang has interwoven her textual practices encompassing poetry, essay, and novels. Human Acts, a provocative testimony of Gwangju massacre and simultaneously a lyrical rumination on how to narrate the event, is the outcome of Han's project on state violence from Gwangju to Buenos Aires. This study seeks to read Human Acts as a literary product of the postmemory generation, and it argues that the novel's aesthetic characteristics of intermediality, intertextuality, and polyphony should be considered in order to grasp the various types of trauma transmission in the novel. Tracing the intertextuality of photography, poetry, and a polyphonic novel in her literary project, I will take up Han's endeavor to articulate the traumatic event with diverse ways of utterance, and how she achieves her goal by adopting a narrative strategy using polyphony of voices, each of which embodies, disembodies, and unearths the (im)possibility of a statement of traumatic violence. The novel thereby creates a space of text charged with a sense of textual communality while depicting the birth and violent demise of the Gwangju Commune.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-37
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023


  • Gwangju massacre
  • Han Kang
  • Human Acts
  • photography
  • poetry
  • polyphony
  • postmemory
  • trauma


Dive into the research topics of 'Photography, Poetry, and Polyphony: Postmemory of The Gwangju Massacre in Han Kang’s Human Acts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this