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Murtagh, Benjamin D. (2005) The portrayal of the British in traditional Malay literature. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines the ways in which Malay authors portrayed the encounter with the British in a range of literary texts dating from the early seventeenth to the early twentieth century. The study draws on Todorov's conception of monologism and dialogism together with ideas of postcolonial theoreticians to analyse the nature of the encounter. The main part of the thesis compares how certain phenomena, ideas and realities were comprehended and represented in traditional Malay literature prior to the arrival of the British, and how their understanding and representation changed or otherwise after the arrival of the British. The issues specifically discussed include the image of the world (chapter 3), concepts of justice (chapter 4), education and technology (chapter 5) and the portrayal of the individual (chapter 6). A close reading found that traditional conventions and formulae still predominated in the majority of texts portraying the British. Nonetheless, the traditional image of the world gradually changed over time, first incorporating British Bengal and then eventually the metropole itself. The understanding of justice and the attitude toward education and technology also underwent certain modifications. Even in the portrayal of individuals, albeit only British and not all of them at that, there appeared some features earlier unknown to traditional Malay literature. The conclusion argues that, contrary to previous suggestions, there was no typical understanding of the British in traditional Malay literature, and Malay authors from different times, locations and social milieus reacted to the British presence in a variety of ways. While many authors proved unable to engage with the British 'other', some of their brothers-in-penmanship did enter into a dialogue with the new ideas and new phenomena of the life brought about by the coming of this 'other'. The findings of this thesis are subsequently used to shed further light on the issue of the transition from the traditional to the modem in Malay literature.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:01

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