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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 1 and Hindi 2 or Sanskrit 1 and Sanskrit 2 or Tibetan 1 and Tibetan 2 or Indonesian Language 1 and Indonesian Language 2 or equivalent knowledge of South and Southeast Asian history and society. Please, contact the student advisor, or 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, memesis

  • Types of puppetry in South and Southeast Asia

  • Performance strategies versus perception strategies



Mode of instruction


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 final paper 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: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

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of “5.50” (=6) or higher. A new version of the final essay (40%) may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” (=5) or lower. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

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.


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


Students of the BA South and Southeast Asian Studies are required to register through uSis before January 15. 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.”.

Other students are requested to send an email to the study co-ordinator including their name, student IDnumber, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the study co-ordinator will register these students after January 15. By February 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

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


Dr. A.T.P.G. van Engelenhoven### Remarks

Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).