Presentation on theme: "An Evolving Tradition. In spite of the many early challenges and lingering difficulties of a political, literary and social nature faced by writers."— Presentation transcript:
An Evolving Tradition
In spite of the many early challenges and lingering difficulties of a political, literary and social nature faced by writers in the English language in Malaysia, literary tradition in English has come a long way, showing considerable dynamism and resilience since its inception.
Three stage evolution Works produced by representatives of the imperial power Works produced under imperial license by natives or outcastes The development of independent literatures or the emergence of modern post-colonial literatures
Representatives: Hugh Clifford, Richard Winstead, Frank Swettenham, Katharine Sim, and Margaret Leong Under imperial license: Gregory W. de Silva and Han Suyin Independent literature: began with The New Cauldron, Compared to India, MLIE is still young Compared to Singapore? We took a different path.
Pioneers: Wong Phui Nam, Lloyd Fernando, Lee Kok Liang, and Ee Tiang Hong 2 nd generation: Shirley Lim, K.S. Maniam, Cecil Rajendra, Kee Thuan, Chye and Hilary Tham
Others: Muhammad Haji Salleh, Adibah Amin, Chuah Guat Eng, Lee Geok Lan, Salleh ben Joned, Nirmala Raghavan, Ruth Ho, Karim Raslan, Marrie Gerrina Louis, Lee Su Kim, Che Husna Azhari, Dina Zaman, Rehman Rashid and Amir Muhammad. Many are bilingual Limited output
Many Malaysian writers seem to enjoy dabbling in witty journalistic writings rather than engaging in serious literary activities. Why? It allows them an easier and wider exposure to the potential readership in the country In keeping with a ‘grand old tradition of journalistic commentary… going all the way to Abdullah Munsyi, no less’ (Rehman Rashid)
The exception: drama Flourished in the 70s Suffered after the introduction of Amendment Act 1971 Made a strong comeback in the 90s But, many are not published.
Malaysia is a plural, polyglot society in which English is one of the marginal languages English is seen as the language of the oppressive and exploitative colonial masters The roots of the language are not deep enough to provide the political and intellectual props required for the hearty growth of literary activity
Language policies: National Language Act 1967, Amendment Act 1971 They created a feeling of alienation and marginalisation thus stifling creativity Sastera Melayu: national literature Other literatures: kesusasteraan sukuan or sectional literatures
Things are changing though since mid 1980s Malaysia increasingly recognises the importance of English in the era of globalisation especially for the purpose of fulfilling the national vision of 2020 Time has also been a healing factor
The absence of a local English language writing tradition Writers depend on tradition for their examples and inspirations They cannot draw from European tradition Need to establish tradition but American literature took 200 years to find an independent voice
The heterogeneous make up of the national population Writers are from diverse cultural backgrounds, their imaginations and value systems are different Need to learn to emphatise with one another’s culture thus contributing to the formation of a common consciousness with common body of symbols and myths for the writers to draw from Need to ‘mingle’ for a shared, collective memory
Different kind of challenges Closed political environment resulting in lack of freedom of speech The cultural state of the country Malaysia is a tradition bound yet modernising country This push and pull factor affects the writers and their imagination both ways Tradition encourages a closed culture which means new ways and behaviours are condemned; thus no chance to experiment
In spite of everything, the future of MLIE looks full of promise Changed circumstances of the language resulted in greater freedom of expression Less political and cultural pressures English is no longer as a part of colonial hegemony The rise of an international and neo- universal world culture e.g. multinationalism and globalism