This essay investigates the ‘field of revision’, in which multiple texts permeate each other to question and transform a given story. To do so, it examines the adaptations of Wren’s Elegy, a South Korean epistolary poem that narrates the story of its titular character’s love for a married man named Simon. The decades-long development of its story—from Mo Yun-suk’s initial publication in 1937 as a revisionist project based on Yi Kwang-su’s Heartless, to three revisions made by the author herself, to its film adaptation by Kim Ki-young—shows how adaptation involves multiple texts, authors, and historical and cultural conditions that create broader networks of elements for stories. By identifying and exploring the blind spots of previous versions, each revision updates the story of Wren and Simon to introduce a different vision. Through our analysis of Mo and Kim’s works, we argue that revision is not just about newly introduced ideas and perspectives, but also about critiques of a story’s previous forms. By viewing revision as such a method, the study of adaptation can become more than an inspection of the difference between texts based on a rigid hierarchy of originals and adaptations.
Wren’s Elegy (Ren ŭi aega), revisionist adaptation, Mo Yun-suk, Kim Ki-young, Yi Kwang-su
© The Authors 2021
Sohn, Irhe and Chong, Ki-In, "Fields of Revision: Adaptations of Wren’s Elegy by Mo Yun-suk and Kim Ki-young" (2022). East Asian Languages & Cultures: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.