From Jungles and Rivers: Animals in Malaysian Indigenous Literature in English


Recent developments in the local literary arts scene have seen the emergence of publications on folktales and fables of Malaysian indigenous people in English. Central to these publications is the presence of animals, whether as symbols, voices, or characters. Nonetheless, critical reaction to this presence has been sparse at best. As animals are paradoxically recognised as central to indigenous societies and their literatures yet marginalized in relation to human concerns, analyzing texts to see how these animals function in literature, what they teach us about animals, what they reveal about humans and our relationships to animals, and how they provide entry to various social issues and ethical questions involving animals seem critically crucial. Tapping into the field of animal studies, this paper aims to investigate the representation of animals in Malaysian indigenous folktales in English. To this end, folktale collections from such as Heidi Munan’s Sarawak Folktales (2017), Lim Boo Liat and Jefri Dylan Ong’s Orang Asli Animal Tales (2016) and collections of Penan, Bidayuh Iban folk stories published by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (2001) will be examined. Using Mario Ortiz Robles’ framework of animal tropes, this paper investigates the animal tropes presented in the selected texts as well as the kind of human-animal relationship that these tropes illustrate. It seeks to extend the range of literary critical practice on literary works written by Malaysian indigenous writers, with particular emphasis on critical animal studies.

Author Information
Zainor Izat Zainal, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia
Izzat Najmi Bin Abdullah, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2021
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon