This course, jointly taught by professors Sylvia Tiwon and Penny Edwards, introduces students to the literature of Southeast Asia by exploring how fiction, poetry and drama engage their social and cultural contexts. We will discuss how works of modern literature emerge from oral and court traditions, the impact of early global trade, the colonial encounter and nationalist movements.
Literature has played a critical role in Southeast Asian cultural, social and political life both as a source of aesthetic pleasure and entertainment, and for its persuasive powers. Thinking of literature as cultural action enables us to see Southeast Asian writers and poets as change agents whose work cannot be quarantined as “culture” but has deeper implications for struggles to improve the human condition in multiple social and political contexts. Our focus on “trans” embraces both the polyphonic world of Southeast Asian literary production, and the literature of estrangement penned by Southeast Asians overseas and Europeans in Southeast Asia.