Touching Surfaces: Gestures of Love toward the Wounded Sister in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian

Joori Joyce LeeChonnam National University
Vol. 39, No. 2 (Fall 2020) 329-347

Since Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was first published in 2007 in South Korea and translated into English in 2015, academic readers have shown critical interest in the novel and explored cultural issues, such as family and gender, from multiple perspec- tives. Despite the different ways of approaching the novel, these studies have commonly employed a method of symptomatic reading, a mode of reading that seeks hidden meanings underneath a visible surface. Challenging this approach to reading The Vegetarian, this article argues that the novel calls for surface reading, which focuses on what is evident and perceptible on the surface level of the text. Taking The Vegetarian as a text that requires an anti-allegorical approach, this article seeks to elucidate the main character’s desire for mutual love and bodily touches present on the text’s surface.


Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]