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Literatures of South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements


Course description

This course is an introduction to the literary cultures of South and Southeast Asia: texts and their connections to cultural and historical contexts. We attend to classical as well as modern literature, oral as well as written texts, manuscripts as well as printed books and magazines, to India and surrounding countries as well as Indonesia and Southeast Asia in general.

We will address a wide range of questions regarding, among other things: nineteenth and twentieth-century literature in Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, and English; the spread and continual adaptation of the classical epics Ramayana and Mahabharata in South and Southeast Asia; the oral performance of traditional narratives and modern poetry in Indonesia; and contemporary popular literature in Indonesian. Underneath this varied set of themes, this course remains focused on the interaction between texts and the social, political, and religious environments in which they are composed, recited, read, heard, and discussed.

The study materials of this course consist of two kinds of texts: scholarly and literary ones. In preparation of each class meeting, students read one to three scholarly articles or chapters about that week’s theme and one or more short literary texts (in Dutch or English translation). Student prepare weekly web-postings and give regular presentations on these readings. Alongside the class meetings, in the course of the semester students independently read one longer literary work (in translation). This work is selected in consultation with the instructors. It will be discussed jointly in the last class

Course objectives

  • fundamental knowledge of and insight into the written and oral literatures of South and Southeast Asia and their past and present cultural position;

  • fundamental knowledge of and insight into current scholarly debates on South and Southeast Asian literatures;

  • training of analytical skills with regard to questions of literary culture by means of critical analysis of South and Southeast Asian literatures and of their scholarly study;

  • self-critical awareness, especially the ability to relativize culturally instilled attitudes.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar course

Attendance and participation are obligatory. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the conveners and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load for the course: 140 hours.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 22 hours.

  • Approximate time for studying the compulsory literature (scholarly and literary): 70 hours

  • Approximate time for individual reading and study of a longer work of South or Southeast Asian literature: 18 hours

  • Approximate time for writing the web-postings and preparing for presentations: 30 hours

Assessment method

The assessment of Literatures of South and Southeast Asia consists of the following elements:

  1. Weekly assignments (web-postings): 30% of overall mark
    1. In-class presentations about the scholarly and/or literary readings (including round-table and weekly presentations): 30% of overall mark
    2. Final Essay: 40% of overall mark

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A new version of the final assignment may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” (=5) or lower. If students take this option, they must choose an alternative topic. They will not be permitted to resubmit the same essay. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.
The course is an integrated whole. The assignments (1 and 2) and the final essay and must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Blackboard is used for:

  • table of contents and extended course description (syllabus) of the course

  • course materials

  • web-postings by students

  • announcements

Blackboard serves as the primary channel of communication about the course between instructors and students outside class meetings. Registration for the course on Blackboard is essential.

Reading list

Readings are to be announced later.
The readings must be studied prior to the class in question.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

(Studeren à la carte is not possible for this course.)


Dhr Dr. Suryadi