News Details | 07-Nov-2008

Singapore Literature in English: Seeking an Audience

• Launch of the first-ever and most comprehensive annotated bibliography of the entire body of Singapore literature in English marking 60 years of creative writing in English
• Literary enthusiasts gathered for a one day symposium to debate on Singapore literature in English

Singapore, 7 November 2008 – The National Library Board (NLB) and the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) launched a jointly published annotated bibliography on Singapore literature in English today. A one-day symposium on local literature was held in conjunction with the launch of the annotated bibliography.

About the Annotated Bibliography
“Singapore Literature in English: An Annotated Bibliography”, is the first ever annotated bibliography on Singapore literature in English to be published. Imaginative writing expressed in any of the main literary forms, including novels, short stories, poems and plays in English that have been published (including some unpublished typescripts) by Singaporean writers, anthologies, periodicals and even electronic journals and miscellaneous publications are listed in the bibliography. While it does not claim to be definitive or complete, this is the most comprehensive bibliography on the subject to be published to date and the first to be extensively annotated, with 1,200 titles recorded.

The annotated bibliography is a handy reference work that provides bibliographical and other information that has been identified, sorted, classified, and annotated. Compiled and edited by Professor Koh Tai Ann, Professorial Fellow in the Division of English in NTU, and the product of considerable research and personal knowledge, it will serve as a useful guide to those unfamiliar with Singapore literature in English, readers in general, as well as curriculum designers, teachers, and scholars who may also find in it ideas for further research. Collectors and bibliophiles will also find the bibliography useful.

“I hope the bibliography will contribute to our pride in the literature, indicate the extent of its achievements and give Singaporeans a sense of its literary history,” said Professor Koh. She added that, “a bold decision was made to call it a bibliography of “Singapore Literature” in English and, not as always in the past, of “Creative Writing”. This is the 60th year since university undergraduates published their first literary journal and creative writing and we can now celebrate a substantial body of literature by writers who have attracted and are attracting critical acclaim both locally and internationally.

At the same time, more Singaporeans are writing and publishing. Thus by being comprehensive, the items in the bibliography also comprise a literary history and express a facet of the Singaporean identity. By compiling an annotated database of the literature, which is as reliable, accurate and inclusive as possible, the annotated bibliography provides a solid basis for future refinement and updating and could be put online for this to be done.

Said Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive of NLB, “Singapore literature forms an indispensable part of our culture and identity. Whether writing on public or private discourse, the stories, poems and plays give expression to our individual and collective consciousness, imagination and experience. Literary works enrich our lives by engaging us with their modes of expression and the issues they present, and by delighting us with the power and beauty of a well-turned phrase. We hope this publication will benefit both researchers and the general public interested in Singapore Literature in English, as well as encourage many more to read and develop an appreciation for our literature.”

About the Symposium
A one-day symposium, ‘Seeking an Audience: Singapore Literature in English’, was co-convened by CLASS and the National Library and was held at the National Library Building. It was the first time that CLASS and the National Library have co-organised such a symposium, signaling their joint commitment to the promotion of teaching and research in the subject as part of their interest in Southeast Asian and Asian literature. It was also the first to involve the whole community of producers and consumers and not only academics as contributors.

Writers and their works need readers for the circle to be complete: hence the symposium’s theme, “seeking an audience”. A central thought of the Symposium is that for a literary culture to develop and flourish, there must be writers and, just as importantly, readers. The delivery of literary works to readers would involve publishers, booksellers, and librarians, while others such as reviewers, journalists, literary critics, curriculum designers, academics, literature teachers and bibliographers – themselves mostly readers, would help to inform and widen the pool of literary audiences. For a vibrant literary culture, Singapore needs an active environment of creation, production, circulation, reading and appreciation ofliterature in general and Singapore literature in particular.

The symposium opened with a dialogue between poets Lee Tzu Pheng and Robert Yeo. It featured papers submitted by academics from NTU and the National Institute of Education (NIE), a poet who is also an academic from the National University of Singapore (NUS), and uniquely, two teams of students from Raffles Girls Secondary School (RGS) and Nanyang Girls High School. Of particular interest was the RGS team which presented its findings on “Students' Responses to Singapore Literature in English in the School Curriculum”.

Contributors on other panels included established writers such as Gwee Li Sui, Aaron Lee, Cyril Wong, Eleanor Wong, Leong Liew Geok, Ng Yi-sheng, Suchen Christine Lim, Yeow Kai Chai as well as those connected with the promotion of Singapore Literature such as journalists, e-journal creators, bookshop owners and publishers.

The symposium ended with a musical by well-known playwright, Stella Kon (of Emily of Emerald Hill fame) and readings by poets as well as participants in a Creative Writing Programme held in connection with the Symposium. More than 200 participants with an interest in Singapore Literature attended the symposium to engage with those who write, publish, sell, read, review, or who teach and study the subject in schools and promote literature.

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Media Contact

Mr Wong Wai Quen
Communications Associate II
Corporate Communications
National Library Board
DID: 6332-1873

Ms Jinny Claire Sim
Assistant Director
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
DID: 6790-6687

About National Library Board (NLB)
The National Library Board's mission is to provide a trusted, accessible and globally-connected library and information service through the National Library and a comprehensive network of Public Libraries. Also under its management are 2 community children’s libraries, and 17 libraries belonging to government agencies, schools and institutions. Through its innovative use of technology and collaboration with strategic partners, NLB ensures that library users have access to a rich array of information services and resources that are convenient, accessible and relevant. More information on NLB can be found on

About National Library Singapore (NLS)
The National Library of Singapore (NLS), situated at 100 Victoria Street, is a national knowledge institution empowering individuals and businesses with knowledge and information as it continuously expands its vast array of reference collections and services. The NLS is responsible for preserving and making accessible the nation's literary and publishing heritage, and intellectual memory. More information on NLS can be found at:

About Nanyang Technological University

About NTU’s Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) 南洋理工大学人文与社会科学研究中心

The Centre for Literal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) under the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) of NTU 南洋理工大学人文与社会科学学院 was established as a school-level research centre in 2006.  The centre aims to facilitate and encourage both interdisciplinary and discipline-specific humanities and social sciences research at NTU.   It has six research clusters including Global Studies, Urban Studies, Chinese and China Studies, Gender Studies, Singapore Studies, andLanguage and Cultural Studies.  Through organising activities such as seminar series, public lectures, workshops and
conferences, CLASS provides an effective platform for interaction and exchange among local and international scholars from various disciplines.  CLASS also houses the editorial office of the Singapore Economic Review, a leading journal of economics in Asia.  Professor Euston Quah, Associate Director of CLASS and Head of Division of Economics, has been the editor of the journal since 2002.


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