English Literatures of South East Asia

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
South East Asia Section

Module overview

This module examines literature in English about South East Asia and written by South East Asians, taking English as a South East Asian language. It explores issues such as diasporic identity, exile and belonging, linguistic choice, race and communal politics. The often marginal relationship of writing in English to national canons is a recurring theme, as is the question of the orientation of writing in English towards a readership within and/or beyond the writers’ countries of origin. Particular emphasis is placed on the strategies employed by South East Asian writers in English in response to the often uncongenial environments in which they work.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • demonstrate in-depth understanding of the place of English as a literary language in South East Asia and of the diverse responses of South East Asian writers in English to their particular contexts.
  • have developed enhanced critical reading skills, both in the close reading of literary texts and in assessing and applying theoretical analysis in secondary texts.
  • show improved writing skills, with an emphasis on using primary texts to support their arguments.
  • bring to bear greater experience in oral discussion of ideas in making constructive contributions to class discussions.


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

Scope and syllabus

Specific topics and texts are subject to change, but have included:

  1. Introduction: English and (not) belonging
  2. Politics and praxis: Villa and Bulosan
  3. Anxieties of English: Muhammad Haji Salleh and Wong Phui Nam
  4. Staging hybridity: Kon's Emily of Emerald Hill
  5. Kitsch nation: Sa'at's sex.violence.blood.gore
  6. Watching the tourists: Lapcharoensap's Sightseeing
  7. Nobody or a nation: Law-Yone's Irrawaddy Tango
  8. Boat stories: Kupersmith and Nam Le
  9. Philippine protest literature
  10. Border crossings: Aw's The Face

Method of assessment

  • 40% Reflective journal, 2x 700-word pieces
  • 60% Essay, 2,500 words
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

  • Alfian Sa'at. 2010. Collected plays. Singapore: Ethos Books.
  • Aw, Tash. 2016. The face: strangers on a pier. New York: Restless Books.
  • Kon, Stella. 1989. Emily of Emerald Hill: a monodrama. London: Macmillan.
  • Lapcharoensap, Rattawut. 2005. Sightseeing. London: Atlantic.
  • Law-Yone, Wendy. 2003. Irrawaddy tango. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
  • Le, Nam. 2008. The boat. Edinburgh: Cannongate.
  • Muhammad Haji Salleh. 2000. Rowing down two rivers. Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
  • Wong Phui Nam. 1993. How the hills are distant: poems from the first decade. London: Skoob Publishing.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules