British Cultures of Reading and Literary Appreciation in Nineteenth-Century Singapore

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Title: British Cultures of Reading and Literary Appreciation in Nineteenth-Century Singapore
Other Titles: Reading and Literary Appreciation in Colonial Singapore, 1820-1860
Authors: Fermanis, Porscha
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Date: Apr-2020
Online since: 2020-09-01T10:07:39Z
Abstract: This chapter considers the complex relationship between reading, literary appreciation and civic participation in nineteenth-century Singapore. Its specific focus is on three very different types of reading by British audiences: recreational reading or reading for pleasure; reading for reference or knowledge; and reading and translating Malay manuscripts. Each of these types or practises of reading corresponds to a particular reading place: the first is the colonial subscription library – here the Singapore Library (established 1844) – which, I argue, was instrumental in selecting and promoting the kinds of habitus-forming literature deemed desirable for British colonists and, to some extent, for wealthy non-European elites; the second is the creation of reference, manuscript and archival libraries – here the Raffles Library and Museum (established 1874) and the library of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (SBRAS) (established 1877) – which transformed the kind of scholarly and scientific reading that was possible for British and other European readers in Singapore; and the third is the translation and evaluation of Malay literature by European readers in the ‘virtual’ reading spaces of the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia (JIA) (1847–55; 1856–63) and the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (JSBRAS) (1879–1922). While I concentrate on the racialised constructions of reading that emerged from within these British cultures of reading, I also briefly examine the alternative reading cultures that persisted and developed among local-born and diasporic Malay and Chinese communities, particularly those surrounding an emerging middle-class literati of teachers, scholars, translators, copyists, printers and publishers.
Funding Details: European Commission Horizon 2020
Type of material: Book Chapter
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Keywords: Literary criticismRecreational readingInformational readingSingapore LibraryRaffles LibraryMalay literature
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Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Is part of: Rose, J. (eds.). The Edinburgh History of Reading Subversive Readers
ISBN: 9781474461917
Appears in Collections:English, Drama & Film Research Collection

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