Is Literature Dying?

By Chua Jun Yan (13A01A)

According to statistics released in Parliament earlier this year, Literature is on its deathbed.  Not so in RI – at least, not if the organizers of Words’ Worth Lit Week 2013 have their way. The event will run from 16 to 20 July. In line with the latest H2 A-Level Literature syllabus, this year’s installment is loosely based around Victorian Literature.

While Lit Week has not been held in recent years, it is not a new idea. Ms Lye Su-Lin (Literature Tutor) recalls, ‘In the past, students would come to school dressed up as their favourite characters during Lit Week, and the amphitheatre was converted into a period showroom.’ In fact, Raffles Press learnt that the 37 posters outside the Performing Arts Centre were designed for a previous edition of Lit Week – one for each Shakespearean play. When asked why Lit Week died out, Ms Lye replied, ‘the H1N1 virus killed it.’ She explained, ‘In 2009, various emergency measures made any large gatherings on any scale quite inadvisable, and while the design exhibition went on, the Lit classes lost the habit of coming together for one celebratory, literature-themed event. Lit Night on 19 July this year hopes to put an end to this dry spell.’

Indeed, the organizers have ambitious hopes for the revived Lit Week. Throughout the week, literature-themed merchandise will be sold at the canteen walkway. This correspondent was granted a sneak preview to the limited edition novelty items, which include Sherlock Holmes-themed postcards and quotation notebooks. In addition, a special poetry anthology will be launched, with verses from present students. The gift booth will be accompanied by a research exhibition on life in the Victorian era. Entry is free for all Rafflesians.

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Raffles Press also understands that a line-up of illustrious writers will be conducting on-campus workshops on Wednesday, 18 July. Prominent names include Alvin Pang, Aaron Lee, and Daren Shiau, who will speak on their works, as well as Kenny Leck and Adeline Foo, who will discuss the intricacies of local publishing. An anonymous source also revealed at press time that Dave Chua and Koh Hong Teng had just confirmed their session on Singaporean comics and illustrating.

Speaking to the organizers during a rehearsal at the Performing Arts Centre, it is evident that Lit Night on Friday, 20 July*, will be the highlight of the event. According to Anne Ng, who has invested the past 6 months in this project with her committee, ‘We are all really excited about Lit Night. It will feature star cameo appearances by many of our institution’s finest actors, with the Year 5s from Raffles Players putting up a reduced Dickens play.’ At press time, the confirmed programme included tableaus from novels like Dracula, as well as an Open Mic featuring RGS Literature Raffles Academy girls, and long-time teacher Mr Geoffrey Purvis. Raffles Jazz is also putting up a performance.

Indeed, 2013 has enjoyed a good year for Literature in RI, with ‘Great Expectations’ declared the 190th Founder’s Day theme in January. ‘Our aim is to share our love for language,’ says Stephanie Koay, ‘not just with literature students, but also with the broader community.’ Indeed, Stephanie was the one who initiated the idea with her committee, after learning about the interregnum which Lit Week experienced. While Lit Week directly involves a smaller group than Bio Week or Economics Week, the organizers believe that Literature should belong to every student in the school.

Will this be able to combat the wider national apathy towards literature? One can only say that it is still too early to tell.

The writer is involved in the organizing of Lit Week.  The Literature Week Executive Committee comprises Stephanie Koay, Jacqueline Khor, Cai Xiaohan, Alvin Soh, Sum Xinyi, Sandra Chong, Anne Ng and Deepak Warrier.

For more information, please visit https://www.facebook.com/litweek2013. Tickets for Lit Week will be sold at the door on Friday at $2 each, and include a door gift. 

*Amendment: Do note that Lit Night has been pushed up to 7.00 pm instead of 7.30 pm as stated on the poster.

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