Dear Leader! Big Brother!: On Transparency and Emotional Policing

in Policing Literary Theory
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Damned to silence or condemned to compliance: these are the two options open to writers in North Korea – the ultimate police State, whose panoptic perfection of power is a living example of what Bentham and Foucault theorized. So as an example of how literature reacts to policing, or how it participates in it, North Korea may seem like a dead-end, providing little that could generate discussion about the varied and complex interplay between disciplinary mechanism and artistic will-to-expression. For one might assume, what is there to say about the 1984-like party-sanctioned Newspeak novels that faithfully and unswervingly patrol the borders of socialist-realist-nationalist-didacticism? Or about theories that line up to embody the ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ literary school of the loyal Orwellian sheep? But while the North Korean political classes continue to posture in unsplendid isolation from the rest of the world, there has been a growing exploration of ordinary lives under total policing that have produced more nuanced readings. This chapter examines how totalitarian policing shapes emotional identity in a North Korean defector’s memoir (by Shin DongHyuk) with reference to emotional authenticity, George Orwell and western ideals of public transparency.

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