Emergent voices in Singaporean fiction in English

Wicks, Peter (2004) Emergent voices in Singaporean fiction in English. Asian Profile, 32 (1). pp. 31-40. ISSN 0304-8675

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[Introduction]: Singaporean Literature in English is plentiful, vibrant and diverse, reflecting the central role of the English language in the public discourse of the city-state. Although English is but one of four official languages in Singapore, in practice it is the predominant linguistic medium in a city-state committed to modernisation, economic growth, and social integration. For Singapore’s political elite, English serves as Singapore’s ‘working language,’ as well as an essential bridge between its Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian inhabitants.

This healthy condition owes much to generations of literary pioneers since the late 1940s, after the foundation of the then University of Malaya in Singapore. However, a national literary tradition cannot rely forever on the efforts of pioneers, even when most of them are still productive. The consolidation of a tradition and establishment of a distinctive literary genre now depends on the emergence of new, younger voices. Fortunately, there are many now writing in Singapore, including Daren Shiau (Heartland), Alfian Sa’at (Corridor), Claire Tham (Skimming), and Tan Hwee Hwee (Foreign Bodies). This paper examines principal social and cultural themes in the fiction of these emergent voices, and makes particular reference to their preoccupation with youthful identity, their irreverent style, their views of the Singaporean urban landscape, and their sense of a Singaporean future. This analysis also draws on the key basic assumptions set out by Altick and Fenstermaker in The Art of Literary Research (1993), firstly that to understand the meaning of a text, it is necessary to know as much as possible about its creator, the author, and secondly that authors and texts are products of particular social and historical contexts. The works of all four young authors, all of them born since Singapore’s independence in 1965, are testimony to the continued hybridity of contemporary Singapore beneath the sheen of globalisation.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: No response to requests for copyright permission from publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Humanities and International Studies (Up to 31 Mar 2011)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Humanities and International Studies (Up to 31 Mar 2011)
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 01:03
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:43
Uncontrolled Keywords: Singapore, Singaporean literature, fiction, emerging, emergent, authors
Fields of Research (2008): 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200519 South-East Asian Literature (excl. Indonesian)
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/2362

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