Malay Literature: Volume 23 Number 1 June 2010

July 1, 2010


Institute  of the Malay World and Civilisation,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

The Novel Putera Gunung Tahan by Ishak Haji Muhammad: A Post-Colonial Reading

Abstract This article seeks to highlight a counter discourse to the dominant colonial discourse that posits European colonizers as superior to the colonised. Applying a post-colonial European colonizers as superior to the colonised. Applying a post-colonial framework to Ishak Haji Muhammad’s novel Putera Gunung Tahan, the analysis shows how Ishak manipulates his story to debunk firstly the colonial discourse of “going native” that renders as deranged colonisers who befriend “natives” or become intimate with them. The novel instead makes clear that Robert’s insanity is caused by the simple and straightforward application of a magic potion. Secondly, the article highlights Ishak’s contestation of the colonial discourse that represents “natives” as weak, wild, sexually rapacious and abnormal. Ishak portrays his protagonist, the colonised Ratu Bongsu, as clever, strong, normal and civilied, who successfully outsmarts William, rescues Mrs. William and marries her.

 Keywords post-colonial, colonialism, civilised, independence, civilizing mission, colonialist discourse.

Literature Section, School of Humanities,
Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Constructing a Theory on Women’s Soul and Mind: An Early Concept of Independent Self-Theory

Abstract This prologue is fair and has a humanist feature. The write-up is not as loud as the shouts once made by Virgina Woolf, Mary Daly, Elaine Showalter, Michelle Barret, or Kate Millet for that matter. In fact, it is unlike the call from amongst Western feminist liberals, who are fanatic and immersed in the struggle to secure the position of women. It is just a small voice that refers to the discussion as to how a woman’s soul should be fathomed, understood and appreciated, especially the procedures on women’s appearance and the life that is described in creative works. This essay is an attempt to adapt and restructure the reading method once put forward by Showalter, i.e. gynocriticism, or better known as “women as writers based on woman-centred criticism”. In Malay, the term used is often gino or ginokritikan. Generally, Showalter’s approach is to deliberate four aspects, which are women’s biology, psychology, language and culture. Each and every aspects is studied closely to illustrate the expression of feeling and women’s desire, experience, identity, gender, sexuality, patriarchy and women’s inner world. Therefore, to have a deeper understanding of Malay women specifically, the best way to understand this situation is to come up with a specific approach which I name the Theory of Women’s Soul and Mind. The foundation of the formation of this theory is the understanding of the meaning of soul and mind which is absent in Western feminist study. The formation of this theory is also based on experience, emotion, background and the local surroundings embracing religion, practice and the Malay culture.

Keywords Wommen’s inner soul, independent self-theory, concept, woman-centred criticism, androcentric model, male critical theory, penis envy, womb envy, gynocriticism, emotion.

Literature Section, School of Humanities,
Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Literature as a Mirror of its Age: A Perception of Dutch-Aceh War Based on Syair Peperangan Aceh

Abstract The Dutch-Aceh War of 1873-1904 was a continuation of the war which had begun as early as 16th century. Aside from having been recorded in numerous historical documents, the war was also creatively captured by a narrative writer who described the war through local eyes. The determination of the Acehnese to defend their country led to the creation of various stories of their fighting spirit which referred to their patriotism, their strict adherence to customs and their spiritual and religious way of life. In the context of the role of literature as a mirror of its age, the war narrative does not merely present historical facts but also provides an accurate portrayal of the reactions and response of the Acehnese to the Dutch invasion. As such, it has become an important part of the corpus of social documents relating to Aceh. This article focuses on another war narrative of the Dutch-Aceh war entitled Syair Peperangan Acheh, written in the early 19th century. Like other war narratives, this literary work describes the ambiance of war, rich in the personal values of the Aceh community when confronted by foreign powers in that era-personal values re-evaluated by other communities in the Malay World.

Keywords mirror of its age, Dutch-Aceh War, narrative writer, local eyes, patriotism, social document, Malay world. 


School of Humanities,
Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Law and Peace Treaty Manipulations By Dutch Colonisers on Native Indonesians: A Study on Mochtar Lubis’s Selected Works

Abstract The Dutch colonisation of Indonesia from 1814 until independence on 27th December 1949 has been described by historians and writers alike as a long, dark period of bitter strife and suffering for the Indonesian people. Mochtar Lubis, a famous Indonesian journalist and novelist reenacts the suffering of his people at the hands of the colonisers in his creative works, focusing especially on the latter’s deceitful manipulation of the law to negate peace treaties signed between the Dutch authorities and local indigenous leaders. Such duplicity was undertaken chiefly to benefit the usurpers whilst oppressing the Indonesian people. Among the treaties signed which the Dutch used to hoodwink the locals were the Renville Agreement and the Linggardjati Agreement. Mochtar Lubis immortalises their treachery in his works such as Jalan Tak Ada Ujung (Road With No End), Tidak Ada Esok (No Tomorrow), Maut dan Cinta (Love and Death) and Kuli Kontrak (Contract Coolies). This article will read Mochtar Lubis’ literary works as a form of post-colonial discourse that foregrounds the tension between coloniser and the colonised even as it dismantles Dutch hegemony represented by the bias of enacted laws and one-sided treaties.

Keywords post-colonial, coloniser, natives, bias law, manipulate, deceitful.

Faculty of Modern Language and Communication,
Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Imaginative Reality in Poetry: A Textual Study of Poems in the Anthology Soulship (Menyarung Jiwa) By Raja Ahmad Aminullah

Abstract This study examines the possibilities that can be viewed as textual reality. The works analysed are poems from the anthology Soulship (Menyarung Jiwa) written by Raja Ahmad Aminullah, an artist who is well known in the country for his works of art, including in the poetic genre. Reality in poetry is found in the form of imagination expressed in poetic works. This poetic imagination is made possible through semiotic interpretation tools. In other words, the approach used in this study is the semiotic-poetic approach. Semiotics is a signification theory or, rather, a theory of production of meaning. By using this theory, the meaning of the poetry will be looked at according to its expression in utterances. In other words, the focus of the study will revolve around what makes the utterance meaningful, how it expresses something and what precedes it at a more fundamental level so that the manifestation of meaning is achieved. By using semiotic theory, the basis which is used as the premise is the belief that meaning is not apparent in the object, but shaped by what is interpreted by a competent observer, that is a subject who is able to give “shape” to the object. Since language is a tool of society, every word used in a poem by itself functions as a cultural unit that is capable of conveying a speaker’s knowledge of his “mother tongue” or of the world that shapes the way of thinking of the native speaker. In order to get an understanding of this “world”, the words used as signs in the poems will be analysed in terms of their truth which is made possible by a smart and knowledgeable interpreter. A semiotic analysis of literary material normally utilises a hypothetical presentation in the form of a model. Through this model, a mode of interpretation of society’s social experiences based on the encyclopaedic knowledge of the reader or interpreter, the reality of life in a society can be traced and understood. The possibility of this understanding will be examined using semiotic terminology-such as sign and signifying, semantic code, intertextuality, contextuality and others-as tools that can be made use of in the study. Through the value of imagination that is glimpsed via the structure of the utterance, what is interpreted as “thought” and the “philosophy of thinking” is the product of reasoning that emerges from the poems contained in the anthology Soulship.

Keywords denotation, phenomenology, ideology, iconic, intertextuality, irony, code, connotation, context, langue and parole, realism, reality.


Centre of Gender Research,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Companionship and Rivalry: Mother-Daughter Relationships in Selected Malay Novels Written by Women

Abstract This paper attempts to analyse the tension of companionship and rivalry in mother-daughter relationships in selected Malay novels written by women. The concept of symbiosis, introduced by Nancy Friday (1977), in analysing Western society, and the findings of several anthropologists on aspects of Malay kinship are applied to these works. In doing so, the writers seek to establish how women writers perceive mother-daughter relationships in a Malay society. Finally, the paper analyses whether or not the depictions emulate the ideal mother-daughter relationship as dictated by the norms of the Malay society.

Keywords Mother-daughter relationship, symbiosis, Malay kinship, Malay women writers, Malay norms.

School of Language Studies and Linguistics,
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Reality  Over Imagination in Muhammad Haji Salleh’s Rowing Down Two Rivers

Abstract One important function of imagination is to understand reality. Imagination and reality are inherently related and poetry is one zone where imagination and reality meet. Complementary changes in the nature of reality, as well as cultural and ideological configurations, especially in post-colonial writings which aim to reconstruct a sense of nationalism and nationhood call for a re-evaluation of the concept of creative imaginations. Having said that, this paper aims to raise the issue of the difference between the two ideologies of poetry with reference to the imagination and reality, and argues that the difference is related to the concept and state of imagination in the poem. This paper focuses on Muhammad Haji Salleh’s Rowing Down Two Rivers (2000) to investigate the dominance of reality over imagination. The relevant concepts that relate reality to imagination in the domain of  artistic creation will be used as the conceptual framework of this study. The analytical procedure will consist of examining the types of images and their associations in the selected poems in order to explore Muhammad’s mode of conveyance in the selected poems in order to explore Muhammad’s mode of conveyance of the elements of reality. The analysis demonstrates that Muhammad’s overreliance on sensory images results in the dominance of reality over imagination in his poetry. The significant motifs in his poems in Rowing Down Two Rivers such as road, journey, the traveller, home, quest, and identity are embodied in words or descriptions denoting sensory experience which leads to familiar associations with Malaysian reality. Imagination in poetry is considered to be a human faculty concerned with creating autonomous aesthetic artefacts which can represent directly or indirectly to the human experience. This study identifies that for Muhammad, this notion now been turned into an agency that is used solely for nurturing and insulting the intellectualism and idealism of social Malaysian identity and life.

Keywords reality, creative imagination, idea images, Muhammad Haji Salleh, Malaysian poetry, nationhood, identity, imagination in poetry, post-colonial poetry.