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Title: Reading for genre
Authors: Holden, P. 
Keywords: Governmentality
Lee Kok Liang
Malaysian literature
postcolonial literature
short fiction
short story
Singapore literature
Issue Date: Nov-2010
Citation: Holden, P. (2010-11). Reading for genre. Interventions 12 (3) : 442-458. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Postcolonial literary studies has paid a great deal of attention to the novel and much less to the short story, despite the fact that the latter is often a more common means of literary expression in late colonial and early post-independence periods. The majority of scholarship on postcolonial short stories, furthermore, explores stories as printed in retrospectively constructed collections, rather than considering the original context of publication. This essay illustrates the possibilities opened up by placing fiction written at the moment of decolonization in the context of its publication, looking at both paratextual elements in the journal in which the story appeared and the journal's intervention in a larger social environment. It thus examines two modernist short stories by Lee Kok Liang, one of Malaysia's best-known English-language writers, originally published in the short-lived literary magazine Tumasek in Singapore in 1964. Reading the stories 'It's All in a Dream' and 'When the Saints Go Marching' in situ illuminates their very precise response to the transition from the governmentality of colonialism to that of the developmental nation-state. In Lee's case, the stories respond to a series of tensions concerning class, ethnicity and language that would only find temporary resolution in Singapore's departure from the Malaysian Federation in 1965. The formal properties of the short story form, indeed, perhaps make it more successful in interrupting and interrogating national narratives than the novel. Short fiction insinuates itself into the fabric of history, and yet its fragmentary form raises contradictions that are never fully rationalized through historicizing narratives. Appreciation of the way in which such stories work in precise postcolonial contexts is thus not simply scholarly historicism. Re-read, such short fiction has the potential not so much to propose a genealogy of postcolonial governmentality, as to make a new generation of readers aware of its genesis, and thus to question the conceptual categories through which governance is manifest. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
Source Title: Interventions
ISSN: 1369801X
DOI: 10.1080/1369801X.2010.516101
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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