Analysis of the Narrative of Oral Life Stories Applying the Mythical Structure of Self-Discovery/Overcoming

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Cho H.

Journal of Korean Oral Literature, vol.48, pp.301-329, 2018 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 48
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Journal Name: Journal of Korean Oral Literature
  • Page Numbers: pp.301-329
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Deciding on whether one’s life has been successful or not is grounded in one’s inner truth, that is, the self-awareness of a judging agent of “I". Such self-awareness is noticeably revealed in both the superficial and deep layers of the narrative in oral life stories. What is interesting is that self-awareness found in oral life stories is often characterized by severe extremity. This means that we can easily find cases that are characterized by the self-awareness of extreme ends, either affirmation or negation. This study will focus on factors that lead oral life stories towards either of the extreme ends, in order to figure out the distinctive points of narrative structures found in the two cases. During the process, this author has observed that when the “hardships-overcoming” structure of mythical heroic narrative is distinctly shown, and the roles of “I”, the agent of overcoming, are noticeable, the narrative of oral life stories oriented to the affirmation of one’s life omits the axis of “overcoming” among the two structures of “hardships-overcoming”, and when “I” as the agent of overcoming is absent, the narrative of oral life stories oriented to the negation of one’s life is constructed. At this time, the narrative of life stories consistent with affirmation comes to form the structure of "hardships-my roles-overcoming" in detail, and this corresponds to that of “self-discovery/overcoming" found in Korean's shaman myth. If so, the mythical structure of self-discovery/overcoming may function as the principle of a narrative structure allowing the agent of life to reconstruct his/her life positively, as cognitive schemata to integrate coming experiences in life as positive meanings, and as the behavioral principle of narrative to confront hardships in real life that will inevitably be repeated, and cope with them successfully.