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Secondary Pleasures, Spatial Occupations and Postcolonial Departures: Park Chan-Wook's Agassi/The Handmaiden and Sarah Waters's Fingersmith

Park, Heebon; Sanders, Julie; Chung, Moonyoung

This essay explores neo-Victorian fiction in an Asian context via the case-study example of Park Chan-wook’s 2016 South Korean film Agassi/The Handmaiden. An ostensible adaptation of British author Sarah Waters’s novel Fingersmith (2002), Agassi/The Handmaiden is a complex multi-lingual engagement with cultural, political, and sexual histories that are entirely Asian in provenance and that in turn require new attention be paid to the narrative and generic repertoires deployed by Waters’s novel. The article asks how the impact occasioned by adaptational tactics such as neo-Victorianism deepens when the shift is not only one of medium (novel to film) but a recalibration of perspective away from the Anglophone. Park Chan-wook’s film repurposes a British neo-Victorian novel into an early twentieth-century Japanese occupational context and makes new Korean meanings that actively decentre Western concerns. 

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