SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia

The City and the Countryside in South East Asian Literatures

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2016/2017
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 1


This course 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 discrete half unit and is not dependent on these courses). 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 courses.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course a student will be able to 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. This will enable the student to 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. 

The focus will be on, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam 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 improve upon essay writing skills and will have learned how to extract and process information from literary and secondary sources, and to combine the two. As a result of the emphasis on group discussion of the literary texts explored in this course, they will learn how to contribute constructively to debates, how to accommodate the views of others in the learning group and how to present their own views orally.


One hour lecture and one hour seminar per week taught over one term

Scope and syllabus

The course 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 course refers include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar 

The course will encourage the critical appreciation of literary works, which range from poetry to novels and short stories. Although the key focus of this course is 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 course. 

Method of assessment

One two-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 2 (30%).

Suggested reading

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


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules