Between eroticism and social criticism The literariness of Shahnon Ahmad’s Terdedah (1965)

Mohd. Zariat Abdul Rani

Abstract


In the history of modern Malay literature, the 1960s are labelled by many literary
critics as era picisan (the age of dime fiction) because of the flood of karya picisan
(dime fiction) in the local market. Karya picisan here refers to works that clearly
manipulate sexual themes, with the intent of conjuring an atmosphere of eroticism
to attract readers. Critics generally do not consider these works to be karya sastra
(literary works) because they do not fulfil two important criteria that commonly
classify the term ‘literature’, namely bahasa yang indah (aesthetic language) and isi
yang berfaedah (beneficial content). In the context of this definition of ‘literature’,
Shahnon Ahmad’s 1965 novel Terdedah is considered problematic because of
incongruities in the estimation of its ‘literariness’. As opposed to critics who
initially labelled it karya picisan, the ‘literariness’ of Terdedah was defended by
its own author because it contained elements social criticism. This difference in
opinion raises an important point regarding the commonly accepted definitions
of ‘literature’ and ‘literariness’ in Malay literature: after Shahnon proclaimed his
novel’s worth based on its social criticism, critical reception towards Terdedah
showed an unmistakable shift. With respect to this shift of opinion, this article
will perform a critical analysis of the meaning of ‘literariness’ in relation to
Terdedah, and in doing so, clearly determine its status as either a karya picisan or
karya sastra, based on the definition of ‘literature’ practised in Malay literature.

Keywords


Literature, dime fiction, literariness.

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17510/wjhi.v11i1.150

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