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What It Was and How It Began

Singapore Literature in English: an Annotated Bibliography, is the first annotated and most comprehensive bibliography of the entire body of “Singapore Literature in English”. The print edition, published in 2008, was originally put online as a ‘resource guide’ on the National Library’s website with a link provided to it on NTU Library’s website. However, in this static form, it could not be updated and expanded. (For a detailed account, see How the Annotated Bibliography Came About)


What It is Now

In 2013, the Annotated Bibliography became the first of NTU Library’s Digital Projects which aim to make the research of NTU faculty instantly and conveniently available to  the university community, and to a national and global readership. It is also the first such digital bibliography of the entire body of a nation’s literature in an official language in Singapore, if not also unprecedented in Southeast Asia. The Annotated Bibliography attempts to be a complete archive of Singapore literature in English since its early beginnings, from books to periodicals and others, identified, classified and described.  Being at the same time, a current bibliography of the literature, it requires continuous updating and is thus also continually expanding. To achieve its aim of being a complete archive and current bibliography of the literature, as well as render it a more effective search tool, it has been migrated to this purpose-designed platform. This new “digital key” to Singapore literature in English was  launched in October, 2013.


What It Can Do (And What You Can Do) 

In this digital form, the Annotated Bibliography can be updated and expanded, errors and omissions amended, and improvements made, any time. In short, it can grow and develop quickly, regularly and indefinitely. It is now a dynamic, interactive tool (and please do contribute to its improvement through your comments and feedback ) with multiple search possibilities. For instance, the data and annotations provided potentially enable intuitions to be confirmed, areas mapped, patterns discovered, and even discoveries of hitherto unknown facts, leading, perhaps, to unanticipated insights and  fresh research.


Why “Literature in English”, and not  “Creative Writing”?

From the first thin mimeographed bibliographies issued by the National Library and the then University of Singapore, both in 1976, to  the last bibliography thus titled –Celebrations: Singapore Creative Writing in English published by the National Library in 1994 – the term, “creative writing” may have been an adequate description.

For various reasons, it is no longer. A core of writing in English has steadily grown since in quantity and quality along with its maturing creators and the emergence of new talent, acclaimed by critics, studied in schools, Singaporean and universities elsewhere. In literary achievement such work undoubtedly qualifies as “Literature”.

However, this is not a ‘select’ but a comprehensive  bibliography, judgement and evaluation being left to the reader and posterity. The “Literature” in the bibliography’s title therefore also means literature in the generic sense of writing in any of the main literary forms – novelsshort storiespoems and plays in English published  by Singaporean writers, works which first appeared in periodicals, are found in anthologies and even in ephemera such as programmes of readings where poems by then young or unknown writers, originally found their way into print, and in the form of unpublished manuscripts deposited and catalogued in the Singapore National Library.


Why “Singapore” and not “Singaporean”? 

This follows precedent, which in turn was determined by the fact that Singaporehas four official languages (Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English) each with its own literature, and therefore none can lay claim to being the “national literature” such as to deserve the epithet, ‘Singaporean’: each therefore is a literature of Singapore in a particular official language. They are only collectively described as  “Singaporean Literature”.

An NTU Digital Project
Singapore Literature in English : an annotated bibliography

Koh Tai Ann
Compiler and Editor

Professor Koh Tai Ann
College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Nanyang Technological University

Singapore Literature in English: an annotated bibliography, 2008
Archived in NTU Digital Repository

Related links

Quarterly Literary Review Singapore

Singapore Book Council Database

NAC (National Arts Council) Resources and Directories

Contemporary Post-colonial and Post-imperial Literature in English

Singapore Writers Festival

Online Resources

National Library of Singapore Catalogue

National Library of Singapore Resource Guide – Literary Arts 

Google Books 

NTU Library Resources

NTU Library Catalogue

The Journal of Commonwealth Literature Annual Bibliography of Commonwealth Literature, Malaysia and Singapore section (requires institutional login)









NTU Theses and Final Year Projects on Singapore Literature (NTU members only)