Storytelling and the National Security of America: Korean War Stories from the Cold War to Post-9/11 Era
My dissertation is an interdisciplinary study of the Korean War stories in America in relation to the history of the national security state of America from the Cold War to post-911 era. Categorizing the Korean War stories in three phases in parallel with three dramatic episodes in the national security of America, including the institutionalization of national security in the early Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bipolar Cold War system in the 1990s, and the institutionalization of homeland security after the 9/11 attacks, I argue that storytelling of the Korean War morphs with the changes of national security politics in America. Reading James Michener’s Korean War stories, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and The Manchurian Candidate (1962) in the 1950s and early 1960s, I argue that the first-phase Korean War stories cooperated with the state, translating and popularizing key themes in the national security policies through racial and gender tropes. Focusing on Helie Lee’s Still Life with Rice (1996), Susan Choi’s The Foreign Student (1998), and Heinz Insu Fenkl’s Memories of My Ghost Brother (1996) in the 1990s, I maintain that the second-phase Korean War stories by Korean American writers form a narrative resistance against the ideology of national security and provide alternative histories of racial and gender violence in America’s national security programs. Further reading post-911 Korean War novels such as Toni Morrison’s Home (2012), Ha Jin’s War Trash (2005), and Chang-Rae Lee’s The Surrendered (2010), I contend that in the third-phase Korean War stories, the Korean War is deployed as a historical analogy to understand the War on Terror and diverse writers’ revisiting the war offers alternative perspectives on healing and understanding “homeland” for a traumatized American society. Taken together, these Korean War stories exemplify the politics of storytelling that engages with the national security state and the complex ways individual narratives interact with national narratives. Moreover, the continued morphing of the Korean War in literary representation demonstrates the vitality of the “forgotten war” and constantly reminds us the war’s legacy.