Several features account for Leiden’s unique position in the world as a centre of Javanese studies. Its university is the only one with a chair for Javanese. Its libraries and museums house unparalleled collections of books, manuscripts, and artefacts. Javanese scholarship has thrived here for more than a century, while many Javanese scholars who gathered fame outside Leiden were first trained here.
This tradition continues up till today. Textual studies which earned Leiden its name are carried on with unabated vigour while new directions such as media studies and art history are being opened up. The high standard of modern Leiden scholarship is internationally acknowledged.
The curriculum has four components: Language and Discourse (offering three options); Culture (consisting of three core courses); Disciplinary Specialisation (offering a range of options in the fields of language, text, art, and cultural history);
The MA thesis
The MA in Javanese studies is designed to give students a firm grounding in the study of Javanese culture, broadly conceived. The programme prepares students for advanced research in this fascinating field of enquiry, or for a career in international relations, the public sector, or the media.
The programme is structured as follows. Roman numerals designate semesters.
I Language and Discourse
(10 ECTS) Disciplinary Specialisation (5 ECTS)
Culture (15 ECTS)
II Language and Discourse
(10 ECTS) Disciplinary Specialisation (5 ECTS)
MA Thesis (15 ECTS)
The duration of the MA in Javanese Studies is one academic year (9–12 months), divided into two semesters. The programme starts in September. The medium of instruction is English.
With its 80 million speakers, Javanese is the largest so-called regional language in Indonesia, and it ranks twelfth on the world’s list of languages based on the number of “mother tongue” speakers. It also has the oldest and most extensive literary and dramatic traditions in Southeast Asia. As the language of a politically and culturally powerful civilisation, Javanese, along with the writing, speech, performance, and philosophy that it sustains, provides a crucial source of insight into Indonesia and its history. Small wonder, then, that language is the backbone of the MA in Javanese Studies. The three options offered in the Language and Discourse component consist not only of language learning in a narrow sense; thought, society, and culture feature in them as well:
Contemporary Javanese. Contrary to what one might expect, the large majority of Javanese does not use Bahasa Indonesia to communicate with each other, but their mother language, Javanese. In this option students learn to understand, speak, and read modern Javanese.
Classical Javanese is the language of a broad range of literature and drama. In the Classical Javanese option, students learn to interpret literary and dramatic texts on the basis of their prior knowledge of contemporary Javanese.
Old Javanese (Kawi) blossomed in Java from 800 to 1500, in Bali much longer (even up till now). After
an introduction to the grammar, texts from various periods are read. Literary history forms part of the course.
In the Culture component of the MA in Javanese Studies, students acquaint themselves with the main dimensions of Javanese civilisation past and present. This component consists of three obligatory core courses, devoted to Ethnography, Historiography, and Religion, which provide important background knowledge and insights for the study of Javanese language and discourse on the one hand and for disciplinary specialisation on the other. Students work with a variety of materials: western and Indonesian, modern and traditional, scholarly and popular, and largely textual but also visual.
Ethnography. This course is devoted to descriptions and interpretations of Javanese culture in European languages and Indonesian. Attention is given to visual and performative media.
Historiography. In this course the history of Java will be dealt with in chronological order. Students will learn to put Javanese social and cultural phenomena in a historical perspective.
Religion. The Religion series focuses on the complex called Javanese Islam, discussing topics like spirit beliefs, customs and convictions regarding turning points in life, and ethics.
Disciplinary Specialisation Options
There is considerable room for choice in the Disciplinary Specialisation component of the MA in Javanese Studies. This makes it possible for the MA in Javanese Studies to accommodate students with different academic backgrounds. Those who are already acquainted with the discipline of their choice (and may even have had an undergraduate training in it) but not with its application to Java, as well as students who are unfamiliar with that discipline but have studied Indonesia and Java, are both catered for. The options are:
Philology, Palaeography, and Codicology. Philology tries to establish what happened to written texts in the course of time, and to reconstruct the context of their genesis and transmission. The course teaches various approaches, alongside the scripts of the documents and their material aspects.
Philosophy and Religion. How the world religions formed Javanese thinking and in turn underwent local influence is treated in this specialisation. The course includes a discussion of the relevant literature and an in-depth treatment of selected topics.
History discusses Javanese historiography and the theoretical literature developed around it. Attention is given to the recent debate on the national historiography of Indonesia and other countries in Southeast Asia.
Art and Material Culture. The art of Java has a prominent place within Indonesian art, because of its long history, its variety of materials, genres, and styles, and its role in the modern art circuit. This specialisation provides students with a general knowledge of Javanese art and material culture and makes them familiar with art-historical approaches and research methods.
Literature. Literary analysis and literary history are the focus of this specialisation. Questions raised relate to poetics, narrative technique, and genre, on the basis of materials from various periods.
Media Studies. This specialisation offers an introduction to the discipline of media studies through Javanese-language materials and its cultural uses, covering print, audio, and audio-visual media from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.
Performance Studies. Students with this specialisation gain an insight into the wide range of genres of Javanese performance and familiarise themselves with the scholarly approaches to these genres from the perspective of ethnomusicology, theatre studies, and anthropologically inspired performance studies.
Sociolinguistics and Anthropological Linguistics. Indonesia and Surinam are confronted with the issues that stand central in contemporary anthropological and sociolinguistic enquiry, including multilingualism, language and ethnicity, language ideology, and language shift and loss. These are studied in this specialisation.
Linguistics. Besides for students interested in any Javanese dialect, Javanese linguistics is useful for those who want to work on neighbouring languages like Sundanese, Madurese, or Balinese.
The MA Thesis
The MA thesis is researched and written under individual supervision. It addresses a topic of the student’s choice within their field of disciplinary specialisation.
Students who complete the programme will receive an MA degree in Javanese Studies, mentioning the specialisation studied.
To qualify for admission to the MA in Javanese Studies, applicants should: have completed a BA degree (or equivalent) with good results at a recognised university; have a thorough proficiency in written and spoken English; have a good working knowledge of written and spoken Indonesian; Graduates from all disciplines may apply for admission. Prior knowledge of Javanese is not required.
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