Literally Speaking: Where Does Teaching Belong?

Featuring: Noor Hasnah Adam, Seetha Lakshmi, Robert Yeo
Moderator: Philip Holden

Our popular Literally Speaking series is back this September! Our Season 2 will pick up where we left off in May, when we tackled questions like "Why Study Literature?", and "What Should We Teach?". We will present a series of three monthly talks from Sep to Nov, featuring an exciting line-up of speakers that include Noor Hasnah Adam, Matilda Gabrielpillai, Seetha Lakshmi, Laremy Lee, Lin Gao, Suraidi Sipan, Erin Woodford and Robert Yeo.

Our panelists for this month dig into different contexts for the teaching of literature. How much does knowledge of a tradition of writing in a language help us understand literary works? And what can be gained from remembering and understanding debates about teaching of literature in the past? The session will be moderated by Philip Holden.

Literally Speaking is a series of discussions that brings together educators who work in different settings and in different languages to explore aspects of literature they have found central to teaching and learning. In doing so, we debate the ongoing importance of literature and the literary in Singapore’s changing society.

Literally Speaking is organised by The Select Centre, in collaboration with Philip Holden.


This talk aims to share a critical analysis of Tamil Literature (2001-2015) in Singapore, its use in Education and Society in a 21st century multicultural and multilingual context. As literature is the reflection of the society, the speaker will also explore the place of adolescent literature in Tamil language.

Symbolism has always been a subject in the Western literature. However, we cannot apply the Western understanding of Symbolism when interpreting Malay literature. Although the Malay Symbolism is not established as a theory yet, there are a few guidelines on what the Malay Symbolism is. We have to understand the aspects of Malay world view, beliefs and culture. The talk will discuss the three main criteria of Malay Symbolism, while the speaker will also share about her own work where most symbolisms appear as animals and taboo beliefs of the society.

The speaker will share about the book on teaching literature called
To Cipher and To Sing, which he co-wrote with MP Liu in 1984. He will also talk about his essays on teaching literature and the founding of a literature teachers association.


From left: Philip Holden (moderator), Robert Yeo, Seetha Lakshmi, Noor Hasnah Adam.

About Robert Yeo

Robert Yeo has published poems, staged plays, a novel and recently gone into writing libretto and autobiography. His latest book are his memoirs Routes 1940-75, a Singaporean memoir and his collected poems, The Best of Robert Yeo. He taught in the National Institute of Education for many years, among his subjects the teaching of literature. Currently he teaches creative writing in Singapore Management University.

About Seetha Lakshmi

Seetha Lakshmi is an Associate Professor of the Asian Languages and Cultures Academic Group at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore. Appointed as a trainer in 1997, she has led teaching and researches at NIE, concerned primarily with subjects including Standard Spoken Tamil, Teaching Tamil as a second language, Tamil pedagogy for the Tamil Diaspora, Sociolinguistics and the Development of Tamil Language & Literature through Mass Media. She had worked at the Tamil Murasu newspaper as a sub-editor (1991-1992) and as teacher for Tamil language (1993-1997). Her research book Standard Spoken Tamil and Pedagogy (2009), co-authored with Dr Vanithamani Saravanan, received the Karigaalan Award (Karigaalan Virudhu) from the Tanjore Tamil University and Mustafa Tamil Trust as the best Tamil book published in Singapore for the year 2009.

About Noor Hasnah

Noor Hasnah Adam writes seriously in the year 1998 during her study at the National Institute of Education. The award-winning writer had won two Golden Point Awards and three Malay Literature Prized (Hadiah Sastera). Noor Hasnah Adam writes various genres, from poetry to short story, essay, script and documentary. She received the Goh Chok Tong Youth Promise Award (Distinction) in 2008, Promising Malay Writer Award in 2009 and Young Writer MASTERA award in Jakarta in 2013. Her books include Mis3 Rasa (poetry, 2008), KELARAI (short story, 2008), Mis3 Rasa Budaya (2012), Skripen Jilid 1: Hantu Nak Jadi Orang (2015) and Skripen Jilid 2: Alamak Melayu Alamak (2015).

About Philip Holden

Philip Holden is Professor of English at the National University of Singapore, where he teaches courses in Southeast Asian and Singapore Literatures in English. He has also published widely on auto/biography, and Singapore and Southeast Asian literatures, is the co-author of The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English, and one of the editors of Writing Singapore, the most comprehensive historical anthology of Singapore literature in English, In addition to his academic work, he is also a published short story writer and social commentator.

Wed Sep 21, 2016
7:30 PM - 9:00 PM SGT
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Black Box (Level 2), Centre 42
Pay as you wish at the door (suggested contribution $10) FULL
Venue Address
42 Waterloo St, 187951 Singapore
The Select Centre