Popular Literatures of Southeast Asia.
EUROSEAS, 26-18 August 2010, Gothenburg, Sweden.
In southeast Asia, as elsewhere, the health and whereabouts of the novel and other highly regarded literary forms are much asked after (i.e., where is the great Philippine novel? When will there be a Malaysian Nobel Literary Laureate?). It is sometimes alleged that southeast Asia lacks a ‘reading culture’, by which is tacitly meant that outside restricted metropolitan circles there is little demand for the bourgeois novel. However, in most southeast Asian towns can be found bookshops, bookstalls or small-scale commercial lending libraries, all amply stocked with reading material. These texts—including romance novels, comics, marriage guides, religious handbooks, manuals of supernatural lore, and horror magazines, to name only a few genres—are produced for profit and read for pleasure or curiosity. Meeting Northrop Frye’s (1976) ironic description of popular literature as “what people read without guidance from their betters,” these texts are generally dismissed by critics on both moral and aesthetic grounds. Despite—and, indeed, because of—this disapproval, southeast Asian popular literature represents a vibrant field that is worthy of greater study.
This panel proposes to investigate these less highly regarded and far more frequently read forms of literature from across southeast Asia for what they may reveal about the tastes, preoccupations and predilections of those who consume and produce them, on the one hand, and about the effect of technological change on textual forms, on the other. The focus will be on instantiations of the written word, including not only present-day printed texts and emerging digital media but also, inter alia, lithographs, manuscripts, and lontar leaves from the nineteenth century and earlier. In order to maintain a focus on issues of the text and reading, purely oral or visual forms are excluded.
The panel seeks to be wide-ranging both geographically and historically. Papers are welcomed not only on contemporary examples of popular literature but also on earlier forms, such as Malay narrative poetry (syair), Tagalog metrical romances (awit and corrido), and Netherlands Indies dime novels (roman picisan). Contributions should not be restricted to discussion of the contents of the texts but should also include analysis of them as material objects with social and cultural histories. Topics of interest include but are not limited to: the interaction of manuscript and print cultures; authorship and readership; hierarchies of literary genres; texts as mass-market commodities; gender and genre; technologies of reproduction, distribution and consumption; the sociologies of taste and reading.
Dr Mulaika Hijjas, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia, the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
Dr Patricia May B. Jurilla, Associate Professor, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, the University of the Philippines, Diliman.
Abstracts should be sent to Dr Hijjas at firstname.lastname@example.org by March 15, 2010. The panel will be finalised by the end of March. Funding may be available to enable one PhD student studying at a Southeast Asian university to attend, but participants are strongly advised to pursue their own funding avenues.
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