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Oral Traditions of South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Successful completion of at least 45 EC from the first year (propaedeutics) of the bachelor’s programme in South and Southeast Asian Studies including Hindi 2 or Sanskrit 2 or Tibetan 2 or Indonesian 2. Please, contact the convenor, Dr. A.T.P.G. van Engelenhoven, if you are interested in taking this course, but do NOT fulfill the abovementioned requirement.


‘Oral Traditions’ is an umbrella term for the total of orally transmitted cultural knowledge. This course intends to give an introduction in semiotics through focussing on an oral tradition or verbal art in South and Southeast Asia. The midterm divided the course in two parts. Before the midterm most attention will be devoted to the principles of orality and semiotics. This part will be the same in every course. The second part may be changed every year and focuses this year on the phenomenon of puppetry.

Course objectives

  • Introduction to the study of oral folklore

  • Introduction to semiotics: de Saussure versus Peirce: signs, semiosis, mimesis

  • Types of puppetry in South and Southeast Asia

  • Performance strategies versus perception strategies


The timetable is available on the website of the Timetable

Mode of instruction


Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenor needs to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

5 EC = 140 hours.

  • Seminar: 13 × 2 hours = 26 hours

  • Reading tasks: 11 × 5 = 55 hours

  • Preparation midterm task = 20 hours

  • Preparation presentation = 8 hours

  • Paper = 31 hours

Assessment method


  • weekly reading tasks

  • midterm task

  • presentation

  • final paper

  • presence and participation


  • weekly reading tasks:10% of the final grade

  • midterm task: 20% of the final grade

  • presentation: 20% of the final grade

  • final paper: 40% of the final grade

  • presence and participation:10% of the final grade


The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of “5.50” (=6) or higher.

This course is an integrated whole. Everything needs to be taken in the same academic year. It is not possible to transfer results to a next course.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Homework, discussions and grades are posted on Blackboard

Reading list

readings from:

  • Chandler, Daniel, 2007. Semiotics: The Basics. Oxon: Routledge

  • Sebeok, Thomas A., 2001. Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics. University of Toronto Press.

Other literature to be announced during class


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. Aone van Engelenhoven