SEMESTER TWO – 2003/2004



EN 5210: Singapore Literature and Culture in English


Lecturers: A/P Ismail Talib, A/P Philip Holden


What's on this page:
Module Description & Aims
Complementary Website
Other Relevant Websites
   Primary Texts
   Secondary Texts
   References for Robert Yeo 
   References for Arthur Yap
   References for Philip Jeyaretnam
Link to Your Schedule


Module Description & Aims

Using selected Singapore texts in English from a variety of different genres, this module aims to enable students to explore, and to simultaneously question, the relationship between literature and social and cultural change in Singapore. Topics to be discussed include: the specific cultural context in which texts are produced, the representation and recreation of identity through poetics and narrative, and issues arising in the use of English in a multilingual and multicultural environment. Given Singapore's history, the notion of a "Singapore" text will be used creatively in order to reflect upon the growth of Singaporean identity and culture.

Complementary Website

This module is co-taught by A/P Philip Holden, who has a complementary website. Please refer to his website for his part of the module. This site will deal with A/P Ismail Talib's section of the module. 


Other Relevant Websites

The Singapore Literature and Culture website is part of a longer Singapore website which carries documents concerning the literature, culture and society of Singapore, and is part of the larger Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature website, based at Brown University, USA. The Singapore Literature and Culture website’s URL is

or, less directly, through

Please see below for other relevant websites.





Mode Percentage Description
Presentation 20% One presentation for the module: precise format to be arranged by the individual lecturer.
Essay 40% A single research essay for either of the two lecturers on a topic arising from the module. to be decided in consultation with the lecturer. Give some thought to this, and make sure you email the lecturer with a brief proposal by week six of the semester.
Examination 40% More details to follow.




Primary Texts 

Robert Yeo. Leaving Home, Mother: Selected Poems (Singapore: Angsana Books, 1999). Readings.

Arthur Yap. the space of city trees: selected poems (London: Skoob Books, 2000). Readings.

Philip Jeyaretnam. Abraham’s Promise (Singapore: Times Books, 1994). Readings.


Secondary Texts: General & Selected Works

Amarjit Kaur, ed. The Shaping of Malaysia (London: Macmillan Press Ltd.; New York: St Martin’s Press, Inc., 1999)

J Kennedy. A History of Malaya (Kuala Lumpur: S Abdul Majeed & Co, 1993)

Mohammed A Quayum & Peter Wicks, eds. Malaysian Literature in English: A Critical Reader  (Kuala Lumpur: Longman/Pearson Education Malaysia, 2001)

Ernest C T Chew & Edwin Lee, eds. A History of Singapore (Singapore: OUP, 1991)

Albert Lau. A Moment of Anguish: Singapore in Malaysia and the Politics of Disengagement (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1998)

C M Turnbull. A History of Singapore: 1819-1988  (Singapore, OUP, 1989)

Lloyd Fernando. Cultures in Conflict: Essays on Literature and the English Language in South East Asia (Singapore: Graham Brash, 1986)

Shirley Lim. “Malaysia and Singapore,” The Commonwealth Novel since 1960, ed. Bruce King (London: Macmillan, 1991): 87-103.

Koh Tai Ann. “Singapore Writing in English: The Literary Tradition and Cultural Identity,” Essays on Literature and Society in Southeast Asia, ed. Tham Seong Chee (Singapore, SUP, 1981), 160-186.

Lee Tzu Pheng “Introduction to Singapore Poetry in English,” Anthology of Asean Literatures: The Poetry of Singapore, ed. Edwin Thumboo, Wong Yoon Wah, Lee Tzu Pheng, Masuri bin Salikun, V T Arasu (Singapore: ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information, 1985): 451-464.

Kirpal Singh, ed. Critical Engagements: Singapore Poems in Focus (Singapore: Heinemann, 1986), for readings of selected individual poems by Edwin Thumboo, Lee Tzu Pheng, Arthur Yap and Robert Yeo.

__________. Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature: Vol. 1: Fiction (Singapore: Ethos Books, 1998): *Rajeev S Patke, “Abraham’s Promise: Violence, Critique and the Birth of a Nation”:117-143; *Dennis Haskell, “Memory and Romanticism in Philip Jeyaretnam’s Abraham’s Promise”: 145-156.

__________. Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature; Vol.2: Poetry (Singapore: Ethos Books, 1999): *Bruce Bennett, “Edwin Thumboo—The Poet as Traveller”: 77-83; *Leong Liew Geok,  “‘We must make a people’: The Lyric Enterprise of Edwin Thumboo”: 35-49; *Anne Brewster, “The extravagance of our need: Lyrical Poetry and Community in the Work of Lee Tzu Pheng”: 69-76; *Clarinda Choh, “Lee Tzu Pheng’s ‘My Country and My People’—Revisited”: 173-181; *Ismail Talib, “The Language of Singapore Poetry”: 119-129; *Wong Soak Koon, “Location and Identity in Robert Yeo’s Poetry”: 105-118; *Robert Yeo, “Parts of Speech: A Speculative Note on Arthur Yap’s commonplace”: 131-138.



Robert Yeo


See Kirpal Singh, ed.,  Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature;  Vol.2: Poetry

Patke, Rajeev S “Yeo, Robert,” Encyclopaedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English, Vol.2 (London: Routledge, 1994), eds. Eugene Benson & L W Conolly: 1674-1675.

Michael Wilding “The Poetry of Robert Yeo,” Crossing Cultures: Essays on Literature and Culture of the Asia-Pacific (London: Skoob Books, 1996), eds. Bruce Bennett, Jeff Doyle and Satendra Nandan: 141-148.

Robert Yeo “Staying Honest: Reflections on 25 Years of Writing,” The Arts 3 (1996): 35-38.

Ismail S Talib Robert Yeo's Politics and Poetics, Singaporean Literature in English: A Critical Reader (Serdang: Universiti Putra Malaysia Press, 2002), eds. Mohammad A. Quayum & Peter Wicks:  322-330.


Arthur Yap


See Kirpal Singh, ed., Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature: Vol 2: Poetry.

Bruce Bennett “Yap, Arthur,” Encyclopaedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English, Vol.2 (London: Routledge, 1994): 1672-1673.

Anne Brewster “Formations of Nationalism: Arthur Yap and Philip Jeyaretnam,” Literary Formations: Post-Colonialism, Nationalism, Globalism (Melbourne: Melbourne Univ. Press, 1995): 102-111.

Shirley Lim “Sub/versions of a National Poetry: Arthur Yap,” Nationalism And Literature: English Language Writing from the Philippines and Singapore (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1993): 130-156.

Rajeev S Patke “Arthur Yap,” The Oxford Companion To Twentieth Century Poetry (Oxford: OUP, 1994), ed. Ian Hamilton: 593.


Philip Jeyaretnam


See Kirpal Singh, ed.,  Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature: Vol. 1: Fiction

Philip Holden “The Significance of Uselessness: Resisting Colonial Masculinity in Philip Jeyaretnam’s Abraham’s Promise, Jouvert  2.1 (1998):

Koh Tai Ann “Jeyaretnam, Philip,” Encyclopaedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English (London: Routledge, 1994), eds. Eugene Benson & L W Conolly: 732-33.

Peter Wicks “Politics and Loss in Philip Jeyaretnam’s Singaporean Fiction,” Asian Profile 26 (1998): 357-365.

__________. Review of Abraham’s Promise, Asian Culture Quarterly 25.4 (1997): 89-91.