The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English

The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English

The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English

The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English


The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English traces the development of literature in the region within its historical and cultural contexts. This volume explores creative writing in English across different genres and media, establishing connections from the colonial activity of the early modern period through to contemporary writing across Southeast Asia, focusing especially on the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

In this critical guide, Rajeev S. Patke and Philip Holden:

  • interweave text and context through the history of creative writing in the region
  • examine language use and variation, making use of illuminating examples from speech, poetry and fictional prose
  • trace the impact of historical, political and cultural events
  • engage with current debates on national consciousness, globalization, modernity and postmodernism
  • provide useful features including a glossary, further reading section and chapter summaries.

Direct and clearly written, this Concise Historyguides readers through key topics while presenting a unique, original synthesis of history and practice in Southeast Asian writing in English. It is the ideal starting point for students and all those seeking a better understanding of Southeast Asian literatures and cultures.


Southeast Asia encompasses a huge diversity of peoples, languages, societies, cultures and literary traditions. English came to the region fairly recently, as part of the growth of European and American imperialism, and stayed past the era of empires to become a key intermediary for the processes of modernity and globalization. The modes of literary expression it has inspired make for a compelling story. Our narrative is mindful that a more complete picture would need to relate literary expression in English to writing in other major languages of the region. Within that larger ideal – difficult to realize within the confines of a single book even for a group of regional scholars – the narrative of literary productions from and about Southeast Asia in English merits reading on its own. Our main aim is to bring together texts that experts in their respective fields tend to treat separately, and our enterprise has profited from the work of scholars who have helped bring the Anglophone writing from the various regions of Southeast Asia together in a comparative context. We hope that this book will serve as a useful introduction to the literatures of Southeast Asia in English.

The geographical dimension: English in Southeast Asia

English is a global language rich in regional variety. It flourishes in Asia amidst a plurality of cultures expressed in a variety of languages. Having outgrown colonial origins, it combines a contemporary role as a medium of higher education and international communication with a capacity to bridge disparate linguistic and cultural communities. English is also cultural capital, and indeed the use of it may at times indicate privilege. The number of writers using it as a creative medium has grown steadily wherever the appeal of its expressive resources has been accompanied by the sense of joining a larger community of writers and readers. Authors from Southeast Asia have given proof of this appeal for more than a century, and produced a body of work ample in range and variety.

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