Singapore Literature Symposium 2021

08 May 2021 at 09.00 AM - 09 May 2021 at 07.30 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Cheryl Julia Lee

The symposium attempts to take stock of the directions and concerns that Singapore literature has taken since independence in 1965, from matters of nation-building and to newer complexities of working though the pluralisms of ‘national identity’ to more recent pluralisms, also addressed via more experimental literary formats and more flexible ideas of what might constitute ‘Singapore identity’. That is, what are the content and the literary formats that constitute a contemporary Singapore literature and how might we think of connections that may have persisted since independence?

During our events, photography, sound recording, videotaping and filming may be conducted for use in our publicity materials such as our website, brochures, email direct mailers and social media. If you are attending our events, we wish to bring to your attention that photos, sound recordings, videos and film recordings of you may be taken. 

Organizers: Prof. C. J. W.-L. Wee and Dr. Cheryl Julia Lee (SOH Singapore Studies Research Cluster)

Panel Sessions:

  • Uncharted Territories, 1965-1990

With the birth of independent ‘Singapore’ as a political entity, what new realities and imaginative landscapes did Singapore writers face? How did Singapore writers see themselves and their work in relation to independence, and how did they translate independence into their work? Was independence for them a finished work or a work-in-progress? 

Chair: Prof. C. J. Wee Wan-ling

Speakers: Isa Kamari, Dr. Shirley Chew, Dr. Angelia Poon


  • Landscapes Lost and Found, 1990-2010

A new generation of Singapore writers, growing up in newly-independent Singapore, was confronted by a changing landscape - altered beyond memory and recognition in tangible and intangible ways. How did they grapple with and represent these changes, and what new landscapes did they invent out of what remained? Did these landscapes extend beyond what a prior generation would have thought of as ‘Singapore’, and how did their new configurations of place influence what came later? 

Chair: Dr. Alvin Pang

Speakers: Dr. Boey Kim Cheng, Ann Ang


  • New Fictions

How has the Singapore novel evolved since the days of Goh Poh Seng’s If We Dream Too Long and Kirpal Singh’s China Affair? And what are some possible future developments for this literary form? What is the impact of creative writing programmes in higher education institutions; and of fiction prizes such as the Epigram Books Fiction Prize? How does contemporary Singapore fiction enter into dialogue with international fiction? This panel explores the contemporary Singapore novel and the exciting directions in which Singapore novelists are taking the form.

Chair: Dr. Barrie Sherwood 

Speakers: Balli Kaur Jaswal, O Thiam Chin, Sharlene Teo


  • New Movements

This panel seeks to trace the new trajectories that Singapore writing has embarked on in the new millennium. What new concerns preoccupy contemporary writers and what old ones continue to haunt them? What new forms can literature take and how do we understand these forms in the context of Singapore’s literary traditions? Are genres, categories, and borders still relevant ways of structuring experience, given today’s globalized world? How do the formation of online communities through initiatives such as SingPoWriMo impact the development of the literary scene? 

Chair: Dr. Cheryl Julia Lee

Speakers: Marylyn Tan, Stephanie Chan, Nabilah Said


  • New Tongues

Within a multicultural landscape, Singapore writing has always been engaged in the politics of language. This panel brings together Singapore writers whose works are important parts of the contemporary conversation about language and the way it informs our sense of self and belonging. Given that the panellists can all be understood as being involved in the act of translation, the panel will also discuss what it means to communicate in an age characterized by transnationalism. 

Chair: Theophilus Kwek

Speakers: Yulia Endang, Tan Dan Feng, Annaliza Bakri