16 July 2014: Learning Across Boundaries in Literary Burma

Written by Clare Isabel Ee | Images from CIPE

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In February 2014, Humanities Professor Robin Hemley, who is also Director of the Writing Programme at Yale-NUS, led 13 students on the first Literary Burma Learning Across Boundaries (LAB), along with Ng Teng Kuan, a staff member from the Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE).

This LAB introduced students to the literary riches of Burma, past and present. It provided an opportunity to visit cultural monuments and literary sites in Yangon, Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin and Bagan, and to explore works of literature, non-fiction, and poetry to better understand Burma’s tumultuous modern history and rapid development. Readings and lively discussion formed a large part of the learning trip and students kept a travel journal documenting their experiences.

“I found the Literary Burma LAB a very enriching experience, as the activities we did were quite diverse,” said one student, Erika Terrones Shibuya (Class of 2017). “We were able to visit historical and cultural sites in Yangon like the Shwedagon Pagoda and in Bagan, the sunset behind the stretches of hundreds of temples.”

The group also had the privilege of meeting with the acclaimed Burmese poet Zeyar Lynn, whose poems they had read beforehand.

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The group met with Burmese poet, Zeyar Lynn (center)

“Our lunch meeting with Zeyar Lynn was a great success,” shared Teng Kuan. “Students were exceptionally engaged in reading, interpreting, and applying poems on modern Burma. This then informed our animated discussion with him.”

He added that through the readings and conversations on colonialism, race and identity in the Burmese context, this LAB helped students think in a more sophisticated, sensible and compassionate way about similar issues back home at Yale-NUS and in Singapore.