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3rd Singapore Literature Conference 2021: Community


The Singapore Literature Conference is back for its third instalment, centred around the theme of “Community". The conference explores the theme in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and drama about Singapore from a wide range of perspectives and disciplines.

The sessions will be on the following sub-themes:

  1. community and ethics,

  2. literature and the community,

  3. teaching literature; and

  4. community building on social media.

 

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Suzanne Choo, an associate professor at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. She has conducted research in issues related to education for global and cosmopolitan citizenship particularly in relation to literature education, global and cosmopolitan approaches to teaching literature; and ethical criticism.

For a full list of the speakers' bios and abstracts, please click here.

Ticketing
Entry to the Conference this year is free, and will take place online, via live-streaming.

To register for the Conference, please sign up via our Peatix page here.

Conference Monograph

We will also be launching our 2017 & 2019 Singapore Literature Conference Monograph ($18/copy).
Please pre-order via our Peatix page here.

Conference Outline
Saturday, 31 July 2021


10AM - 11AM

Conference Keynote Lecture: “Reading and Writing from the Viewpoint of Ethics” with Q&A

11AM - 12PM

Multilingual Panel Discussion of Community in Singapore Literature in 4 Languages

12:30PM - 1:30PM

Confronting Incompatibility: The Disillusionment of the Literature Teacher in Singaporean Prose and Drama (The Future)

1:30PM - 3PM

Dissonance in Malay Poetry, A Return To The Spirit: Glimpses of Spiritual Consciousness in Singaporean Malay Literature (Community Building)

3PM - 5PM

Community, Resilience and the Individual, Community in Cyril Wong’s Poetry, Enlivening Singapore Literature in the Classroom, FMSR and “I Found a Bone” As Trauma Poems

5PM - 6PM

Literature Goes Digital: "Solliladanga" - a Youth Podcast on Singapore Tamil Literature

 


Conference Keynote Lecture: “Reading and Writing from the Viewpoint of Ethics” with Q&A

31 July 2021│10AM - 11AM
English
A/P Suzanne Choo, Assistant Dean, Office of English Language and Literature, National Institute of Education (NIE)

Ethical Criticism, a key movement in literary studies especially since its emergence at the turn of the 21st century, sees texts as connected to the world and the role of readers in engaging in ethical dilemmas, representation and questions of values through texts. Using case study examples of how teachers have infused Ethical Criticism and ethical thinking in their classes, Dr Choo will show how this has facilitated greater empathy and understanding of others. She ends by reflecting on the role of writers as ethical philosophers in opening spaces where the experiences of those suffering implicit and explicit forms of injustice are voiced and validated.
 

Multilingual Panel Discussion of Community in Singapore Literature in 4 Languages

31 July 2021│11AM - 12PM
English
Ann Ang, Cheong Yun Yee, Annaliza Bakri, Sivanantham Neelakandan

Moderated by Dr. Azhar Ibrahim, Faculty Member, Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS)

Multilingual writers and scholars comment on the creation or enhancement of community in Singapore through literature.
 

Confronting Incompatibility: The Disillusionment of the Literature Teacher in Singaporean Prose and Drama (The Future)

31 July 2021│12:30PM - 1:30PM
English
Dominic Nah (PhD student, National Institute of Education, Singapore), Gayathrii Nathan (Independent researcher), Benjamin Chew (Undergraduate, National University of Singapore), Akanksha Raja (Independent researcher), Diana Lu (Independent researcher)

In this comparative analysis of “Impractical Uses of Cake” by Yeoh Jo-Ann, “Shakespeare Can Wait” by David Leo, “Those Who Can’t, Teach” by Haresh Sharma, and “Normal” by Faith Ng, we examine how Literature teachers continue to grapple with inspiring engagement with their subject beyond the pursuit of grades, albeit with varying degrees of success. These four texts present both newly-trained and experienced Literature teacher protagonists in their quests to make a difference in their students’ lives through teaching both canonical and contemporary texts.

Collectively, these teachers attempt to impart values of openness, imagination and empathy, but face resistance from students and fellow educators, leading them to question their ideals and the purported relevance of literary education in Singapore. Faced with this double bind between promoting the value of teaching Literature and accounting for skeptical students and antagonistic colleagues, these teachers confront the question of how to influence students with the teaching of Literature. Considering how these conflicts span across neighbourhood schools and junior colleges from 1970s to present-day Singapore, could they insinuate an inherent incompatibility of a Literature education with the sociocultural realities of their students?
 

Dissonance in Malay Poetry, A Return To The Spirit: Glimpses of Spiritual Consciousness in Singaporean Malay Literature (Community Building)

31 July 2021│1:30PM - 3PM
Malay
Khairol Haque (National Institute of Education, Singapore) and Liyana Nasyita (National University of Singapore)
Moderated by Dr. Azhar Ibrahim, Faculty Member, Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS)

Singaporean Malay poetry has developed through the generations from the time of colonization till post-independence. As a city-state, much has been said about Singapore’s economic progress and financial stability with efficient governance. However, in contrast to this progress, poets in Malay have also lamented about the loss of kampong, culture, religiosity and more.
 

Community, Resilience and the Individual, Community in Cyril Wong’s Poetry, Enlivening Singapore Literature in the Classroom, FMSR and “I Found a Bone” As Trauma Poems

31 July 2021│3PM - 5PM
English
Ow Yeong Wai Kit (Academy Officer, Academy of Singapore Teachers), Elijah Chai (Teacher, Ministry of Education HQ), Keng Yu (Student, Temasek Junior College) & Eric Tinsay Valles (PhD, Nanyang Technological University and Teacher, NUS High School of Math and Science)

Enlivening Singapore Literature in the Classroom: The Case of Haresh Sharma's Off Centre // Ow Yeong Wai Kit, Academy Officer, Academy of Singapore Teachers

This paper builds on the arguments of recent critiques of educational orthodoxy to defend the importance of both knowledge acquisition and cultivating the joy of learning in the study of Singapore literature in English, focusing on the case of Haresh Sharma’s Off Centre. In particular, this paper focuses on how upper secondary Literature students were guided to create knowledge organisers and even creative works of their own about the play. Off Centre, which is replete with allusions to classics like Eliot’s “The Waste Land”, Yeats’ “The Second Coming”, and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, may also be challenging for many students, who may lack the cultural capital needed to appreciate such references. Yet, as this paper shows, such background knowledge of Western texts is essential for a full understanding and appreciation of the play. This paper suggests specific ways in which knowledge organisers and alternative teaching strategies can be used productively to aid students' learning of the text, as they offer useful means for teachers to concretise students’ learning of complex Singapore literature texts like Off Centre.

Community, Resilience and the Individual in Southeast Asian and Singapore Literature (Solidarity and Plurality) // Elijah Chai, Teacher, Ministry of Education HQ

The reality on the ground in Southeast Asia has always been communal and predicated on societal mores. From this, it stands to reason that the literature of this region should reflect in greater detail just how the communal transcends above and beyond individuals and their idiosyncrasies. Indeed, how one functions and responds in the context of a greater whole – that of community, is the essence of great literature.

The role of community in Cyril Wong’s poetry // Keng Yu, Student, Temasek Junior College

An examination of the role of the community and Wong’s treatment of loss, namely, alienation and suicide, in his poetry collections After You, The End Of His Orbit, and Unmarked Treasure. More precisely, it will analyse how he interacts with communities in his poetry, such as through the relationships between the persona and their family, as well as how he creates communities through poetry.


Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR) and “I Found a Bone” As Trauma Poems // Eric Tinsay Valles, PhD, NTU and Teacher, NUS High School of Math and Science

Singapore’s first Modernist long poem, Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR), has an unusual, fragmented history. The influences of Modernism on FMSR are quite evident in its form.

In many ways, this long poem is about trauma, specifically the Chinese diaspora enduring privations in post-World War I, agrarian Malaya. The action is driven by a conflict arising from urbanites escaping the squalid city, Singapore, and almost desecrating the unspoilt landscape of the Malayan countryside. The forward movement of a train with its clangorous engines disturbing the stillness of the landscape is perceived as monstrous and inducing a nightmarish trauma in the long poem’s dramatic speaker.

A related poem that directly attacks the Japanese invaders’ lack of empathy during World War II and mourns the death of Ng is Teo Kah Leng’s poem “I Found a Bone.” It is a dramatic poem with a regular rhyme scheme. Like Ng, Teo uses Christian imagery for his testimony. He elicits emotional engagement with imagined discourse from his brother.

 

Literature Goes Digital: Solliladanga - a Youth Podcast on Singapore Tamil Literature

31 July 2021│5PM - 6PM
English
Ayilisha Manthira and Karthigan Ramatas (Independent Researchers)

“Solliladanga - Ilayargalin Ilakkiya Payanam” (Beyond Words - A Literary Journey by Youth), was a 10-part podcast series, which aired from 29th November 2020 until 7th February 2021, with the support of the National Arts Council’s Digital Presentation Grant. It was produced with the objective of stimulating conversations about Singapore Tamil literature within the Tamil community in Singapore. Curated by a youth team, and hosted by young writers Ayilisha and Ashwinii, the series sought to conduct and present interviews of literary experts, writers, and young creatives in the local Tamil literary scene to the masses through the podcast medium. It also covered a range of topics in Singapore Tamil literature, including popular fiction, translation, women’s and children’s literature, national identity in Singapore Tamil literature, youth literary engagement, and an overview of Mother Tongue literature in Singapore, among
others.

This paper reviews the journey undertaken by the Solliladanga podcast team in producing the series that ventured into a medium previously less explored by the local Tamil literary scene. It delves into the question of accessibility of Tamil literature in Singapore, the opportunities podcasting presents for literature, and the process of podcast production involving researching local Tamil literature, interacting with Singapore Tamil literary experts and budding young creatives, and mastering the technicalities of podcasting. This paper also analyses and evaluates the challenges faced during the process, the achievements of the podcast, along with the significance of youth engagement in Singapore Tamil literature. In discussing these points, we argue that having youth-led conversations about local Tamil literature through the medium of podcasts is an inviting endeavour with the potential to nurture a culture of reading and writing local literature in the Singapore Tamil community.