This article compares Gary Pak's story collection The Watcher of Waipuna and Chang-dong Lee's novel There's a Lot of Shit in Nokcheon, presenting them as examples of literary realism that cultivate a new dynamic between fiction and reality from opposite ends within the context of capitalist market economy. I argue that whereas Pak emphasizes the material conditions of the real by transforming reality into a subjective text of its own, reconfiguring the existent identitarian tendencies of Korean American literature to dictate and in turn circumscribe the thematic arc of the narrative to individual subject formation, Lee establishes fictionality as a reality of its own, dismantling the prioritization of critical reflection over imaginative representation as the dominant trend in Korean literature. Weaving close readings of select moments from the two texts into observations of formal aesthetics and their political (or apolitical) trajectory, and exploring how the main protagonists' opposing stances toward mimesis and reality map onto the interrelationship between neoliberal capital and labor, I argue that aspirations to aesthetic autonomy complicate literature's capacity to mobilize political agency by refracting institutionalized impulses to conflate class conflict with the grand narrative of nation-building or identitarian discourse.

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