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Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia

Indonesian Literature: Literature of the Revolution

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2


Indonesian language 1 (or equivalent)

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this course a student should be able to demonstrate  . . . 

  • an understanding of the key texts of Indonesian literature from the period 1942 - 1955
  • improved skills in reading Indonesian literary texts, both poetry and prose
  • an awareness and comprehension of the changes that occurred in the wake of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies and the subsequent revolution and struggle for independence, as well as an understanding of the main features of Indonesian poetics and literary aesthetics
  • an understanding of the main features of Indonesian poetics and literary aesthetics
  • written and oral skills of presentation in particular to learn to use primary textual examples to backup arguments and hypotheses
  • experience and knowledge of the various Indonesian/Malay bibliographic and other library resources
  • an understanding of some of the different approaches to literary translation, and the difficulties involved


A total of 11 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

Reading of literary texts in Indonesian (short stories, fragments from novels, poetry,), as well as supplementary texts in translation. Key readings in Indonesian will be supplemented by readings in English translation. The course will focus on developments in language and literature in the wake of the Japanese occupation, the subsequent declaration of independence, and the ensuing revolution. The course consists of readings in the most representative authors of this period (e.g. Idrus, Chairil Anwar, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Asrul Sani, Achdiat Karta Mihardja, Rivai Apin. Sitor Situmoang). In lectures and seminars, key problems of the era such as the inheritance from the pre-war generation, the cultural manifesto Surat Kepercayaan Gelanggang and subsequent reactions to those ideas, the idea of the generation of ’45 (Angkatan ’45) will be discussed. These seminars will also draw on key works on the period by scholars such as Teeuw, Aveling, Maier, Johns, Tiwon, Foulcher, Hellwig.

This course is core for year 2 students of BA Indonesian and BA Indonesian and . . . . .

Method of assessment

One two hour written examination taken in May/June (60%); one 1,500 word essay to be submitted on day 1, week 6, of the term in which the course is taught (15%); one 2,500 word essay to be submitted on day 1, week 1, of the following term (25%).

Suggested reading

Dictionaries and Grammars

  • Echols, John M. and H. Shadily. 1975. An English-Indonesian Dictionary. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Echols, John M. and H. Shadily. 1989. An Indonesian-English Dictionary. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Tim Penyusun Kamus Bahasa Melayu Nusantara. 2003. Kamus Bahasa Melayu Nusantara.
  • Poerwardaminta, W.J.S. 1952. Kamus umum bahasa Indonesia. Jakarta: Balai Pustaka
  • Tim Penyusun Kamus Pusat bahasa. 2001. Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (ed.3). Jakarta: Balai Pustaka.
  • Sneddon, James N. 1996. Indonesian: a Comprehensive Grammar. London: Routledge.

Works on Indonesian literature

  • Foulcher, Keith. 1980. Pujangga Baru. Literature and Nationalism in Indonesia 1933 - 1942. Adelaide: Flinders University.
  • Foulcher, Keith and Tony Day. 2002. Clearing a space. Leiden: KITLV.
  • Johns, Anthony H. 1979. Cultural Options and the Role of Tradition. A Collection of Essays on Modern Indonesian and Malaysian Literature. Canberra: Faculty of Asian studies in association with the Australian National University Press.
  • Kratz, E. U. ed. 1996. Southeast Asian Languages and Literatures. London : Tauris.
  • Kratz, E. U. 2000. Sumber Terpilih Sejarah Sastra Indonesia Abad XX. Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.
  • Teeuw, A. 1979. Modern Indonesian Literature, Vol.1. Leiden: KITLV Press.
  • Teeuw, A. 1979. Modern Indonesian Literature, Vol.2. Leiden: KITLV Press.
  • Tiwon, S. 1999. Breaking the Spell; Colonialism and Literary Renaissance in Indonesia. Leiden: Dept of Languages and Cultures of South-East Asia and Oceania, University of Leiden.

Writings on prose

  • Frederick, W. H. 1983. ‘Introduction’. McGlynn, John H. and W. H. Frederick (eds.) Reflections of rebellion: stories from the Indonesian upheavals of 1948 and 1965. Ohio University: Center for International Studies.
  • Foulcher, K. 1993. "The Early Fiction of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, 1946-1949." Text/Politics in Island Southeast Asia; Essays in Interpretation, D. M. ed. Roskies. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University center for International Studies.
  • Foulcher, K . 1993. "Literature, Cultural Politics and the Indonesian Revolution." Text/Politics in Island Southeast Asia; Essays in Interpretation, D. M. ed. Roskies. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Center for International Studies.
  • Hellwig, H. 1994. In the Shadow of Change: Images of Women in Indonesian Literature. Berkeley: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California.
  • Hoadley, Mason C. 1996. "Ethnicity in Modern Indonesian Literature; the Novels of Abdul Moeis and Pramoedya Ananta Toer." Pp. 103-28 in Identity in Asian Literature, ed. L. Littrup. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon.
  • Johns, A. H. 1959. "The Novel as a Guide to Indonesian Social History." BKI (115): 232-48.
  • Maier, Hendrick M. J. 1982. The Failure of a Hero. An Analysis of Pramoedya Ananta Tur's Short Story 'Sunat'. BKI 138(2 &3):317-45.
  • Maier, Henk. 2004. We are playing relatives; a survey of Malay writing. Leiden: KITLV.
  • Scherer, S. 1993. Literary symbolism and images of the Indonesian Revolution in Pramoedya A. Toer's "Dia Yang Menyerah ("She Who Abides"). Paper given at 9th European Colloquium of Indonesian and Malay Studies; University of Hull.
  • Teeuw, A. 1972. "The Impact of Balai Pustaka on Modern Indonesian Literature." BSOAS (35):111-27.
  • Watson, C.W. 1971. "Some Preliminary Remarks on the Antecedents of Modern Indonesian Literature." BKI 127:417-33.
  • Watson, C. W. 1972. The sociology of the Indonesian novel, 1920-1955. (PhD thesis).
  • Watson, C. W. 1986. “Pramoedya Ananta Toer's short stories: an anti-poststructuralist account”. Grijns, C. D & Robson S. O., (eds). Cultural contact and textual interpretation; papers from the fourth European colloquium on Malay and Indonesian studies, held in Leiden. pp. 233-245.Dordrecht: Foris.

Writings on poetry

  • Aveling, H.G. 1974. A Thematic History of Indonesian Poetry 1920 to 1974. Center for Southeast Asian studies, Northern Illinois University.
  • Aveling, H.G. 2001. Secrets need words. Athens: Ohio University Press.
  • Muhammad Haji Salleh . 1977. Tradition and Change in Contemporary Malay-Indonesian Poetry. Kuala Lumpur: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
  • Oemarjati, Boen S. 1972. Chairil Anwar; The Poet and His Language. Leiden: KITLV.
  • Raffel, B. 1967. The Development of Modern Indonesian Poetry. New York: State University of New York Press.
  • Tiwon, S. 1992. "Ordinary Songs, Chairil Anwar and Traditional Poetics." Indonesian Circle (58) :3-18.
    Literature in translation.
  • Aveling, H. G. ed. 1976. From Surabaya to Armageddon : Indonesian Short Stories. Singapore : Heinemann Educational books (Asia).
  • McGlynn, John H. and W. H. Frederick (eds.) 1983. Reflections of rebellion: stories from the Indonesian upheavals of 1948 and 1965. Ohio University: Center for International Studies.
  • Mihardja, Achdiat K. 1972. Atheis. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.
  • Toer, Pramoedya Ananta. 1991. The girl from the coast. (translated by Harry Aveling) Singapore: Select Books.
  • Toer, Pramoedya Ananta.2004. All that is gone. (translated by Willem Samuels). New York; Penguin.
  • Menagerie, 2: Indonesian fiction, poetry, photographs, essays. John H. McGlynn (series editor) Leila S. Chudhor (guest editor). Jakarta: Lontar.

Background reading

  • Ricklefs, M. 1993. A History of Modern Indonesia Since C.1300. London: MacMillan.
  • Taylor, Jean Gelman. 2003. Indonesia; peoples and histories. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Vickers, Adrian. 2005. A history of modern Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bogan. T.V.F. (ed.). 1994. The New Princeton Handbook of Poetic Terms. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Culler, J. 1997 Literary Theory; a Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University press.