This essay was written for a certain application with the prompt “How will your research interest (literature and linguistics) contribute to Singapore’s development?”
Arguably underrated in what many would call a utilitarian Singapore, the study and research of literature may ironically be just what Singapore needs to take a step forward. Although there has been a slight shift in attitudes towards the arts and humanities with the setting up of SOTA and liberal arts college YaleNus, I believe that further research into literature and linguistics will open doors to more development.
The study of literature is the study of humanity, as it not only documents but also mirrors society and its mannerisms. It teaches soft skills such as argumentation and reasoning and most importantly for a country that boasts social cohesion and racial harmony, empathy. Research into various fields and genres of literature promotes a wide range of perspectives demanded to be understood. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is rich with the often misunderstood culture and struggles of Muslim Iraqis during the Taliban regime, Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes echoes the then recent tragic events of The Columbine Shooting while Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close fills it’ pages with the effects that 9/11 had on it’s victims’ families.
Literary works from all over the world encapsulate its representative culture and school of thought. As such, because literature stands the test of time as well, it often complements History by portraying societal attitudes in response to certain historic events. For example, the works of Charles Dickens brings to light the consequences of the Industrial Revolution while The Chrysalids warns the dangers of nuclear war. At the same time, research into our own local literary scene can not only revive our roots and anchor our sense of identity, it can also promote the development of Singapore as an Arts Hub by encouraging local artists. As the literary and arts industry expands, so does Singapore’s development as a financial hub.
Literature and Linguistics also supplement Psychology. Works such as The Yellow Wallpaper and Room presents a different perspective carefully cultivated to portray a message for its audience about mental illness. Whether it demands sympathy or acknowledges the despair that one may face, empathy is once again garnered, hence increasing awareness while chipping away at the stigma. Research into linguistics also provides a better understanding in the way we use language in different mediums for different purposes. Since language is something that everyone experiences, it is crucial to understand it’s power to aid better communication among groups of people. Not only will study in linguistics be beneficial to the researchers themselves, when put to use, the knowledge garnered may bridge the gap between different cultures and age groups, and foster a stronger sense of identity.
As a first world country, Singaporeans deserve to be able to freely express their creative sides. With further research into literature and linguistics, we will be able to have a firm grasp on our roots and identity while being able to project ourselves for further development through understanding social dynamics, principles and challenges to the norm.