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The Probability of Time: A Preliminary Research on The Influence of Jinguqiguan今古奇觀 on Narrative Time Sense of Joseon Readers

Jinsu Kim, Seoul National University

Jinguqiguan, a Qing 淸 compendium of Chinese Huaben 話本, had an enormous effect on Korean ancient novel. Although the work has been discussed until now mostly in terms of its impact on fiction writing, more significant influence is found in the mechanism through which its potential readers perceived narrative time in the very present of their reading. My purpose is to describe the form of the narrative time sense and establish a new understanding of ‘their’ probability.

1. Delay and Sentimental Probability: Delay is a typical way with which Jinguqiguan makes readers assimilate character’s emotion and thus produces inter-subjective rationality. Main events which main characters earnestly desire to happen are often delayed, inviting other events filling the new space made by the delay. However, the time delayed actually provides readers with extra time to melt into character’s vivid sentiment, and through the emotional identification, those events otherwise quite sudden and accidental are ‘mentally’ justified to be probable ones.

2. Narrative Rhythm and Causality of Intensity: Delay, with rapid-paced subsequent events, also composes rhythm in narratives. The rhythm, the alternate structure of slow and fast progresses is involved with an episteme on causality which was shared by the ancient readers. In Jinguqiguan, the causality, beyond a mere logical coherence between a cause and a result, is assessed by a relative impact of the followed event; ‘in terms of esthetic balance, the speedy development of the followed event is a “proper” result of the delayed prior event.’

3. Long speech and pseudo-rationality: The long persuasion of an eloquent speaker for changing main character’s will is one of the repetitive motives in Jinguqiguan, especially when a narrative needs a turn around to another phase. The dominating long speech, often accompanied by passionate rhetoric, is a way of controlling narrative time sense in order to give readers an impression that the character’s change in mind does not happen in a short time. It is a ‘pseudo-rationality’ gained by appealing reader’s impression on narrative time.