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weihsin

6 Posts

Posted - 29 Sep 2004 :  02:38:50  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
At the Kuala Lumpur literary festival & conference in August, there was a talk entitled "What's Wrong With Malaysian & Singaporean Literary Criticism".

There's actually been a fair bit of critical scholarship on M'sian & S'porean lit, judging by the recent anthology of essays edited by Mohammad Quayam & Peter Wicks. Furthermore, a search on the Modern Language Association bibliographic database for "singapore literature" returned 153 hits, & "malaysian literature" returned 272.

I'd like to open the floor to writers & readers of Singaporean literature & ask what sort of questions or topics you'd like to see addressed in a critical fashion?

I think it's more productive to ask what writers themselves think are important & pressing matters in their work & that of their peers, instead of the lament of mutual misinterpretation that goes on between writers versus academic scholars. This is not to argue that academics are have got it "wrong" & writers have the "last word" on literature, but that things look different when you're doing something else, somewhere else.

For example, there have been several panels & calls for papers at conferences in North America about the global / transnational city & its representations in literature. Ethos Books' _No Other City_ , Alvin Pang's _City of Rain_, Heng Siok Tian's _my city, my canvas_, are just a few of the texts I can think of that can reward a sustained, critical discussion of Singapore as transnational city, of Singaporean writing as transnational literature.

So aside from that, what else has been on your minds? Suggest a topic or question, as well as a few texts that could be read & critiqued.

alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 29 Sep 2004 :  12:21:57  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
taking a cue from you, here are several thoughts off the top of my head:

1. Taking a cue from your notions of transnationalism and circumnationality, why, how and when do notions of ethnicity and historical specificity impact the construct of "national" identity in our writing? Is there a perceptible move away from locating ourselves as a post-colonial state? Is anyone writing about Singapore/Temasek as a pre-Rafflesian / pre-independent historical and cultural space?

2. What's happened to the bulk of literary production that pre-dates Independence? There's material dating back to at least the late 1800s --- how did the singaporean (by locale, not citizenship) writer operate as a witness to and contemporary of some of the 20th Century's greatest writers and events? I'm thinking F.M.S.R as a sample text

3. Is Singaporean writing essentially derivative? What are some of the traits that distinguish the singaporean text from any other and does it even matter? My real question: is there a qualitative difference in the nature of texts by Singaporeans written in Singapore, and texts produced outside Singapore by Singaporeans and if these differences exist, what are their determinants (assuming the market is one).



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weihsin

6 Posts

Posted - 16 Oct 2004 :  05:00:45  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Alf, thanks for your thoughts. I'm a bit puzzled at the lack of responses to this...I imagined other writers would have something to contribute, even if it's not a comment, at least a question of some sort they've been thinking about.

Some thoughts on your thoughts:

I wrote a paper for a Modernism seminar last year comparing Joseph Conrad and W. Somerset Maugham's representations of Malaya during the high-to-late moments of British imperialism. And George Orwell was in Burma, I think there's a monograph about that lying around somewhere. You're quite right that not enough scholarship has been done on English-language writers who were in Southeast Asia before 1957 or 1965. It's an uphill battle, sadly enough. What is F.M.S.R?

A lot of women writers who have emigrated overseas have written fiction about Singapore, sometimes in an almost autobiographical/memoir vein. This might be a good way of bringing gender into a discussion of Singaporean expatriate writing. Perhaps women's narrative, remember & (re-)membering of Singapore as a contested space in the imagiNation rather than a definite, imagined Nation?
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 18 Oct 2004 :  15:24:16  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
[quote]Originally posted by weihsin

Alf, thanks for your thoughts. I'm a bit puzzled at the lack of responses to this...I imagined other writers would have something to contribute, even if it's not a comment, at least a question of some sort they've been thinking about.

-- alas you think too highly of the community (or its forums)... do you mind if I broadcast your initial request and ask everyone to post thoughts to QLRS?
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weihsin

6 Posts

Posted - 18 Oct 2004 :  22:45:30  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by alf
do you mind if I broadcast your initial request and ask everyone to post thoughts to QLRS?



Alf, that sounds like a good idea. Thanks in advance!
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M.Chu

Singapore
31 Posts

Posted - 18 Oct 2004 :  23:25:37  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Dear Friends,

Where short stories are concerned, you may be interested to peruse the following works on issues which Singapore writers have tackled:-

(a)Assoc Prof Philip Holden's coverage of short stories from The Straits Chinese Magazine, published from 1897 to 1907, which constitute the earliest Singapore writing in English at http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/resources/scm/scmindex.html

(b)Mary Loh's coverage of the following topics:
- The Short Story in Singapore
- The First Decade: The Rise of the Singapore Short Story in English
- The Quest Motif
- Relationships, Sexuality, and Gender
- Entrapment and the Gothic
- Finding a Tongue: Lanaguage and Dialect in the Singapore Short Story in English
- Beyond the First Decade: the Singapore Short Story in English
- New Writers of the Singapore Short Story in English
- Sensationalism for General Readers
- A New Strain in the Singapore Short Story, at http://www.postcolonialweb.org/singapore/literature/loh/loh1.html

As for me, could someone please share 10 (okay, 5 will do) good reasons why pragmatic Singaporeans should delve more into Singapore fiction in competition with the newspaper/magazines/news broadcast they would rather consume.

Maybe poetry or prose can be incorporated into the daily newspaper; I read Straits Times' Life! and TODAY primarily for literary news.
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ayk

Singapore
8 Posts

Posted - 17 Dec 2004 :  22:41:27  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Pardon me if I don't really get what is exactly being said here, but thought I add some noise to the quiet chatters, to liven up the mood.

I don't read much of Singapore literature (hell, I don't even read much...), but here is my ignorant wish-list for local writings.
1) Less socio-political commentary
2) More definitions on what life is and what humans are about
3) Less judgement and more description

On second thought, maybe we need to have less expression and more pop? Dan Brown had a hit with Da Vinci's Code, and now his earlier works are selling like a frenzy of mice dancing lindy hop on a frying pan (not sure what i am trying to say though).
And maybe then, if we have a superhit written by someone, more people will bother to find out about the good works here?

Well, just my ... let me count the money in my pocket... $1.30 worth of comments.
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 19 Feb 2005 :  10:13:47  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ayk

Pardon me if I don't really get what is exactly being said here, but thought I add some noise to the quiet chatters, to liven up the mood.

I don't read much of Singapore literature (hell, I don't even read much...), but here is my ignorant wish-list for local writings.
1) Less socio-political commentary
2) More definitions on what life is and what humans are about
3) Less judgement and more description

On second thought, maybe we need to have less expression and more pop? Dan Brown had a hit with Da Vinci's Code, and now his earlier works are selling like a frenzy of mice dancing lindy hop on a frying pan (not sure what i am trying to say though).
And maybe then, if we have a superhit written by someone, more people will bother to find out about the good works here?

Well, just my ... let me count the money in my pocket... $1.30 worth of comments.



-- I think if you've indeed read more local work you'd notice that:

1) there's really quite little socio-political commentary apart from a few writers

2) More definitions on what life is and what humans are about is precisely what's available

3) Less judgement and more description - is very common indeed.

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KWee

Singapore
2 Posts

Posted - 20 Feb 2005 :  11:16:29  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ayk

Pardon me if I don't really get what is exactly being said here, but thought I add some noise to the quiet chatters, to liven up the mood.

I don't read much of Singapore literature (hell, I don't even read much...), but here is my ignorant wish-list for local writings.
1) Less socio-political commentary
2) More definitions on what life is and what humans are about
3) Less judgement and more description

On second thought, maybe we need to have less expression and more pop? Dan Brown had a hit with Da Vinci's Code, and now his earlier works are selling like a frenzy of mice dancing lindy hop on a frying pan (not sure what i am trying to say though).
And maybe then, if we have a superhit written by someone, more people will bother to find out about the good works here?

Well, just my ... let me count the money in my pocket... $1.30 worth of comments.


I think we do have a superhit - The Singapore Story by LKY. At least in terms of sale it is one... Right?
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ayk

Singapore
8 Posts

Posted - 06 Apr 2005 :  21:24:03  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Kwee,
You have figures for Mr Lee's book sale? I am curious.

And yes, Mr Alf, I must admit, I don't read much local literature. I was just making some sound.
If you were to recommend one local fiction book, which would it be? I swear I will go to the library, hunt it down, borrow it, and read it (hopefully to complete it too). Seriously.
Call me ignorant but probably the only contact with local writing I have is during my secondary school days when certain short stories are forced onto me.

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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 07 Apr 2005 :  00:17:58  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:

If you were to recommend one local fiction book, which would it be? I swear I will go to the library, hunt it down, borrow it, and read it (hopefully to complete it too). Seriously.



Go to any major library in Singapore. Look for the Singapore Collection. Pick a book whose cover and blurb attracts your attention. Read it. Rinse and repeat, THEN form a generalised opinion.

OR if you're into hip pop successes, why not try Tan Hwee Hwee's FOREIGN BODIES or MAMMON INC?

Edited by - alf on 07 Apr 2005 00:22:27
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