Back from the dead: The Surprising revival of creative writing in Javanese

Crawford School of Public Policy | Indonesia Project

Event details

Indonesia Study Group

Date & time

Wednesday 14 July 2021


McDonald room, Menzies Library McDonald Pl Acton, ACT 2601


George Quinn (ANU)


ANU Indonesia Project

Hybrid seminar

Following the ANU COVID-safe plan, registration prior to attending this event in person on ANU campus is required.

Over the last one hundred years a meme has developed asserting that Javanese literature is dead, or on its last legs. Conservative observers have blamed the supposed death of Javanese literature on the decline of court culture, disappearance of the Indic hanacaraka script, displacement of verse by prose, and loss of fluency in high (krama) Javanese. The rise of a national literature expressed in Bahasa Indonesia has impacted destructively on literary innovation in Indonesia’s regional languages. The highly centralised, authoritarian, and sometimes capricious policies of the New Order government (1967-1998) also had an inhibiting effect. Since 2000, and especially in the last five years, an extraordinary revival of creative writing in Javanese has emerged. The main triggering factors have been the decentralisation of government authority, the spread of affordable digital technology, and an increase in disposable income especially among school teachers. This has made possible the flourishing of hybrid publishing and the distribution of books through online networks of writers and readers. But the long history of constraints imposed on creativity in Javanese continues to leave its mark on the thematic preoccupations of Javanese writers.

The seminar will be recorded.

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