Cosmopolitan Pedagogies: Revisiting Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s Short Fiction


  • Philip Holden, National University of Singapore


This paper explores the author’s experience in teaching Lim’s short stories in Singapore over the course of two decades. Lim’s short fiction has often been seen as subordinate to her poetry and to her longer works of prose fiction and memoir, and it has been read as a part of a career that evolves from a specific politics of location in Malaysia to an engagement with larger questions of feminism, minoritisation and cosmopolitanism identity in the United States. Such a historicist reading needs to be balanced by the reading perspectives on Lim’s fiction of newer generation of Singapore students to whom their settings are now often unfamiliar. Far from being a portrait of a now vanished past in another country, however, Lim’s fiction may fruitfully be read within the context of contemporary Singapore, especially in its questioning of doxologies concerning racialisation and sexuality and its promotion of what may initially seem a paradox: a local cosmopolitanism. Recent critical work on the short story as genre, indeed, suggests that questions regarding a local cosmopolitan ethics may be made particularly acute by the formal features of the short story, features of which Lim makes skilful use.


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Author Biography

Philip Holden, National University of Singapore

Philip Holden is Professor of English, National University of Singapore, where he teaches courses on autobiography, modernism, postcolonial literatures and Southeast Asian literatures in English. He is the author of many articles, many on Malaysian, Singapore and Filipino literatures in English, and a number of books, including Autobiography and Decolonization (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008) and – with his colleague Rajeev Patke – The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing (2010).




How to Cite

Holden, National University of Singapore, P. (2014). Cosmopolitan Pedagogies: Revisiting Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s Short Fiction. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 8(1), 195–208. Retrieved from



Articles on Shirley Geok-lin Lim