SOAS University of London

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

The Urban/Rural Divide in South East Asian Literature

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module a student will be able to demonstrate a knowledge of key literary texts in English translation that refer to the issue of the urban/rural divide in South East Asia. The focus will be on novels, poetry and short stories from a selection of the following countries, varying from year to year according to lecturer availability: Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar. Students will have learned how to read and evaluate these texts critically and to understand them in terms of the cultural, political and historical contexts in which they were composed.

In terms of generic skills, students will have had the opportunity to improve their ability to distil information from secondary sources and to collate this information in the composition of one lengthy essay. They will also have learned how to extract and process information from literary sources, and to combine their observation of these sources with secondary, background readings considered in tutorials. Students will learn how to contribute constructively to debates, how to accommodate the views of others in the learning group and how to present and articulate their own views orally.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with a one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar per week.

Scope and syllabus

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

The module will encourage the critical appreciation of the literary works, which range from poetry to novels and short stories. It will examine in particular the contribution these works make to the understanding of the urban/rural divide in the South East Asian nations under focus. This will be achieved by the weekly consideration of different literary works in specific lectures which, 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.

As a result the content of this module supports and enhances that of other modules on the MA South East Asian Studies programme together with that focussing on Pacific Asia and the Literatures and Languages of South East Asia. Its comparative reflection on a range of literatures across the South East Asia region locates this module firmly within the remit of the MA Comparative Literature programme.

Method of assessment

Two reaction papers of 600 words each (30%); an essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, in the term following the one in which 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