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Singapore Poetry after Nationalism: Looking Out and Looking In

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Organizer: David Kellogg

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Over the last thirty years, Singapore literature in English has proliferated in genres ranging from stage drama to graphic novels. The growth of Singapore poetry has been especially pronounced, including not only new presses with active publishing agendas but frequent anthologies and a large, active group of young Singapore writers forming literary communities both face-to-face and online. It is tempting to draw an imperfect analogy with Ireland of the early twentieth century, moving from the national project of the early Irish Renaissance to the more complex productions of later years. If Singapore literature in the post independence years at first strove to identify, in keeping with the aspirations of the nation's leaders, the terms of what it meant to be Singaporean, Singapore poetry in recent decades has moved beyond nationalization and nationalism and toward a new, often critical or questioning attitude toward previous narratives. The rise of universal English-language education, the increased exposure to international art movements, the growth in youth culture with a large internet presence — all these, together with a growing awareness of fissures and tensions within Singapore society and a felt need to address such tensions in writing, create pressures that have shaped recent Singapore literature. This seminar seeks papers that consider the ways Singapore poetry has matured by simultaneously internationalizing its influences using literary models outside Singapore and making room for critical perspectives hard to imagine previously. The new Singapore poetry is more diverse ethnically, sexually, politically, and in a host of other ways, but because literature in Singapore operates under a complexly truncated notion of free speech, the elliptical possibilities of poetry, with its often indirect relation to direct statement and its low cost of production and distribution (especially online), have become particularly attractive. Papers are invited that consider recent Singapore poetry, its formal development, and its increased tendency to interrogate nationalist narratives and previous national literature.

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