Cultural stereotypes and self-perception in contemporary diasporic Singaporean fiction & Ponti, a novel

Teo, Sharlene (2018) Cultural stereotypes and self-perception in contemporary diasporic Singaporean fiction & Ponti, a novel. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis examines representations of Singaporean identity and selfperception from a position of diasporic removal. Part One consists of a critical essay that considers how fictional depictions of Singaporean Chinese identity are informed by the country’s unique sociopolitical and linguistic context, as well as the cultural and economic contingencies of the global literary marketplace. I argue that Western-centric commercial and readership expectations pressure Singaporean Anglophone writers to represent themselves in self-consciously marketable ways that necessitate cultural stereotyping. Focusing on the novel Mammon Inc. by Hwee Hwee Tan, the short story collection Lions in Winter by Wena Poon, and Cheryl Lu-lien Tan’s recent novel Sarong Party Girls, I examine how these three diasporic Singaporean Chinese female writers use stereotypes to lend fixity to the hybrid, unstable nature of Singaporean identity as well as to negotiate with the boundaries and consumption of postcolonial literary authorship.

Part Two comprises a novel, Ponti, which utilises and subverts Singaporean cultural stereotypes in order to explore the themes of female aging, complex friendship, and loss. Ponti traces the lives of three women in Singapore: the beautiful and aloof Amisa Tan who portrays a Pontianak, a female vampiric ghost originating in Malay mythology, in the Ponti B-horror movie trilogy filmed between the late seventies and early eighties; Amisa’s teenaged daughter Szu, struggling with self-image and identity in 2003; and the caustic and entitled Circe, Szu’s only friend at school, whom, as a social media consultant in 2020, is forced to revisit her relationship with both mother and daughter when a remake of the Ponti films comes up at work. Singapore’s cultural context and burgeoning cosmopolitanism plays a formative role in the story. Slick capitalist development seemingly supersedes Southeast Asian mythology and superstition. Monsters — made-up and metaphorical — haunt and shape the self-perceptions of all three women.

Publication History:
Ponti was published by Picador (London) in April 2018 and by Simon & Schuster (New York) in September 2018. It has been translated into nine languages.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Gillian Aldus
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2019 13:18
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2019 13:18
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/72605
DOI:

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