SOAS University of London

South East Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

The City and the Countryside in South East Asian Literatures

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 1

The module will examine the key issues pertaining to the representation of the city and the countryside in a selection of literary works in English translation by South East Asian authors. The range of countries to which this module refers include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar 

The module will encourage the critical appreciation of literary works, which range from poetry to novels and short stories. Although the key focus will be on modern literature, classical texts may also be considered. Weekly lectures will consider literary works and will, in addition provide the information to contextualize the work in terms of its historical and political specificities. Separate tutorial sessions each week will be devoted to the discussion, analysis and close reading of the literary text in question in light of the thematic concerns of the module. 


This module builds on the introductory lectures provided in Introduction to South East Asia and, to some extent on South East Asia on Film (although it can be taken as a stand alone module). It reiterates and reworks themes discussed in the cinema half units ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Thailand on Screen’ and is in this sense complementary to those modules.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge of how the themes of the city and the countryside play out in a selection of South East Asian literary texts in translation
  2. work critically on a variety of literary forms, most notably novels, short stories and poetry and to acquire additional background information on history, politics and culture of the countries in question
  3. to read and evaluate texts critically and to understand them in terms of the cultural, political and historical contexts in which they were composed.
  4. extract and process information from literary and secondary sources, and to combine the two
  5. contribute constructively to debates, accommodate the views of others in the learning group and present their own views orally


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Method of assessment

Two reaction papers of 600 words each (30%); an essay of 2000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, in the term after the module is taught (70%).

Suggested reading

A downloadable Word version of the Reading List is available here.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules