SSEASN - Freshman Seminar: Southeast Asia by Mail: The Lost Arts of Letter Writing

M 4-4:59P
Edwards, Penelope

This new freshman seminar explores Southeast Asia through letters – actual and fictional, poetic and political, prosaic and musical.    We will consider the form and function of letters, and their use as historical sources, private expression, and literary genre.  In the age of tweets and “hey professor!”, we will also discuss the disappearing etiquette of letter-writing.

Each week, students will receive a different letter(s) introducing them to different parts, pasts and voices of/from/to Southeast Asia. 40% of your grade will be based on participation & discussion, and 60% on written work comprising 12 letters responding to the readings of the week. 

Our readings include 19th century letters by the Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw and the Indonesian princess Kartini, excerpts from Michio Takeyama’s  1950s novel Harp of Burma, Botan’s 1960’s novel Letters from ThailandLetters Home by 1990s Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and contemporary work by Hmong American poets Khaty Xiong and Mai Der Vang. We will also read private letters from Southeast Asian and European archives.  We will also consider poetry, prose and song by Benedict Anderson, W. H. Auden, Eavan Boland, Jimmy Cliff, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Wilkie Collins, Eminem, Herman Hesse, Yusuf Komunyakaa and Natasha Tretheway.


Fall 2017