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Iridescent Corners: Sinophone Flash Fiction in Singapore
From the 1970s, flash fiction (weixing xiaoshuo 微型小說) developed into a comparably outsized literary practice relative to other Sinophone forms in Singapore. The smallness and brevity of flash fiction cohere with the fast pace of urban Singaporean life and the constant transformationn of its cityscape; the compartmentalized relationship between the nation’s four official languages; the marginality of literary spaces and challenges to maintaining literature as a profession; and Southeast Asia’s relative obscurity as a world literary center (with Singapore as a small but important connective hub). Taking the late Yeng Pway Ngon’s 英培安 fleeting scene of Speakers’ Corner as a point of departure, this presentation will chart a short genre history of Sinophone flash and its relationship to literary community building in Singapore through integrative readings of representative works by Jun Yinglü 君盈綠, Ai Yu 艾禺, Wong Meng Voon 黃孟文, Xi Ni Er 希尼爾, and Wu Yeow Chong 吳燿宗, recognizing their formal and thematic intersections as iridescent corners that play with the state’s cultural, political, and geographical "OB" (out-of-bounds) markers. Rather than privileging professional mastery, their works trace flash fiction’s iridescent literariness and worldliness to hyper-locality, compressed temporality, a participatory culture of authorship, and a spirit of amateurism. This amateurism is derived not from a sense of linguistic underdevelopment or technical lack among these authors but by their passionate and vulnerable engagement with the flash form as well as the dissident moral conscience of their thematically and stylistically intersecting critiques of Singapore’s sociopolitical OB markers.

Brian Bernards is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California.


Feb 7, 2023 02:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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