In the now-iconic ‘2 mothers in a hdb playground’, Arthur Yap gives us these quintessentially Singaporean lines from two mothers comparing their children, ah beng and kim cheong (italics mine):
ah beng is so smart,
already he can watch tv and know the whole story
your kim cheong is also quite smart,
what boy is he in the exam? […]
kim cheong eats so little.
give him some complan. my ah beng was like that,
now he’s different, if you give him anything
he’s sure to finish it all up.
We compare people, places, things all the time in real life. We might even argue, Bloom’s Taxonomy be d**ned, that comparison is a cognitive skill on its own: our understanding of the world around us, particularly unfamiliar terrain, is shaped by what we already know, or what we are well acquainted with. When we travel to foreign lands, our observations are often filtered through a Singaporean lens, where “Oh, it’s so messy here” or “They are really laidback here” is always already a reflection of our own experience back home. Like in Yap’s “2 mothers”, comparison can be used to confirm our own understanding of our context (i.e. Singapore) and affirm ourselves (i.e. my son is better than your son). The same would surely apply to the Sony/Microsoft, DC/Marvel, Samsung/Apple fanboy wars.
Now that the curtains have been unveiled, we are free to welcome Mr. Ian Tan into the team! Check out his excellent “How to Read a Poem” series on YouTube, which should prove very useful to your grasp of the unseen for H2 Paper 3 and poetry comparison in H2 Paper 1. Read on for a few more selections from Mr. Tan’s series
Mind in its purest play is like some bat
That beats about in caverns all alone,
Contriving by a kind of senseless wit
Not to conclude against a wall of stone.
It has no need to falter or explore;
Darkly it knows what obstacles are there,
And so may weave and flitter, dip and soar
In perfect courses through the blackest air.
And has this simile a like perfection?
The mind is like a bat. Precisely. Save
That in the very happiest of intellection
A graceful error may correct the cave.
Before we all ride into the sunset and bring 2017 to a close, I thought I’d kickstart our reading of Pride and Prejudice with a detailed analysis of Volume I Chapter I that lays the ground for our future study of Austen’s narrator, characters and the overlapping concerns of the text.
Beginnings are important, because they set up the reader’s expectations and illuminate the chapters that follow.
All, all, all you Lit students, all you Lit students should really really really watch this. If there’s anything you should realise in our study of the three literary genres, it’s that repetition has a place in the writer’s craft. Repetition creates rhythm, pumping emphasis, injecting urgency and deepening despair in different contexts. Far from “uncreative”, repetition and cumulation – the use of words with similar meaning – make explicit to the reader / audience the importance of those very words (both denotative and connotative meanings), reinforce impressions of characters and ingrain an understanding of the writer’s concerns. So, yeah, repetition slays.
In this first of hopefully many Lit Cuts, we explore various literary methods – poetic, dramatic, prosaic – across texts outside our narrow syllabus. Just as hopefully, these posts will clarify your understanding and expand our imagination of what literature can be, and how writers carve out new meaning for themselves.
In this post, we dive into the use of figurative language in one enthralling chapter from Altered Straits. Half of the novel is based on the boy-soldier Naufal Jazair’s fight against “an aggressive neighbour” in a reimagined Singapore in 1947.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
From Billy Collins, ‘On Turning Ten’
Just who is Duke Vincentio and what are his real motives? With these vital questions in hand, Ms. Ang’s lecture rummaged through the rampant “plotting, manipulation and duplicity” in Measure for Measure. Do these means justify the ends — that of exposing Angelo, restoring social order and purging Venice’s moral/sexual corruption?
This question assumes that the Duke “conforms to the traditional figure of the wise ruler” who always exercises “his wise and kindly concern for others” (Miles). In other words, he must be the “convincingly remote” authority figure whose actions are ultimately “benevolent” and morally righteous, even if his methods arouse our suspicion at times. This is the Duke that predominates Act 5.
This post, taking inspiration from an unlikely source, rethinks the above assumption. What if the Duke is not a corrector of vices? What if he is instead “profoundly disingenuous” (Miles), “very odd” in his execution of intentions (Adelman) and finally, self-important to disconcerting extremes? Lest the audience forgets, the Duke spends a protracted sequence in disguise and never clarifies his shifting position on Angelo. The play arguably presents to us three distinct Dukes with different intentions:
- The Duke in Act 1 (“D1“) who avows his love for the people but not their vehement attentions. He proceeds to temporarily cede control to Angelo, his deputy;
- The Duke disguised as the Friar (“D/F“) in Acts 2 -4, and the early section of Act 5, lurking in the shadows to manipulate; and
- The Duke who resurfaces triumphantly in public during Act 5 (“D5“), pronouncing and quickly renouncing punishment upon Angelo and Lucio, and making amends to Claudio, Isabella and Mariana.
What would you do if you were Nick and Honey, and were invited over to after-party drinks with Martha and George? Mind you, the first words you hear as George opens the front door are a resounding “FUCK YOU!” (Act One, 20).
These words, after we hear the odd chuckle from the audience, should cause consternation, if not terror, for you, the guest-cum-hostage of the house. Thus chained to Nick and Honey’s perspective, Albee’s audience is made to experience George and Martha’s menace, which is as divorced from “Fun and Games” as can be.
As Ms Yeo analysed in her introduction lecture, the title of Act One is primarily ironic in effect and serves notice of the “dangerous”, “shocking”, “almost unbearable” truths (New American Library) the entire play communicates to its prisoners — the audience.