Understanding Edwin Thumboo


  • Gwee Li Sui, Singapore


Edwin Thumboo is arguably the most famous and powerful figure in Singaporean literature. He is also the most controversial, generating a broad range of responses to the meaning and value of his verse. Thumboo’s poetry parallels not just the stages of his life but problematically also how Singapore has developed socio-politically. These inextricable aspects create the very possibility for conflicting readings, which essentially disagree over historical decisions, the role of art and the impact of Thumboo’s career and character.

     My essay will look at the construction of the image of Thumboo and its relation to these differing outlooks. I shall consider the dimensions of his historical place, his artistic convictions, his status in literary and academic culture and his own personality. A different way of working with Thumboo – without using him to frame Singaporean literature – is also proposed. My wish is to be able to confront objectively where this major poet’s legacy stands today. 



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Author Biography

Gwee Li Sui, Singapore

Gwee Li Sui is a literary critic, a poet and a graphic artist. A familiar name in Singapore’s artistic  scene, he has written and lectured on a wide range of cultural topics and edited several notable critical and literary anthologies. 2013 sees the release of a twentieth-anniversary edition of Gwee’s Myth of the Stone, which was the first full-length English-language graphic novel in Singapore




How to Cite

Sui, Singapore, G. L. (2013). Understanding Edwin Thumboo. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 7(2), 158–172. Retrieved from https://journals.iium.edu.my/asiatic/index.php/ajell/article/view/374



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