Malay Literature of the 19th Century represents in-depth research of traditional Malay literature based on various categories of literature written and copied in the 19th century, texts of critical studies cited out on a number of these works of literature, and critical studies and general evaluations pertaining to various aspects of traditional Malay literature by researchers of literature, history, anthropology, sociology, political science and other literary theories. In addition, this book presents a detailed study of the characteristics of traditional Malay literature by focussing on aspects that involve the study of texts, aspects of writing, aspects of werks, authorship, Malay authors and forms of traditional Malay literature.
This book pays special attention to Malay literary works produced or copied in the 19th century. Limiting the observation to solely the 19th century gave rise to other difficulties because determining the period when a manuscript was produced or was copied often represents indeterminable information from our knowledge of traditional Malay literature. In this way, the determination of the period of the 19th century has to be accepted in a flexible and open manner.
The focus of observation in this book was identified as the period of the 19th century because it was the period that left us with a large number of works and effects on the treasury of traditional Malay literature. It was in this century that the most number of Malay manuscripts were collected and copied to expand and perpetuate their distribution, later to be taken to Europe, eventually to become available material and the earliest to be re-published in the printed form when the tradition of printing began in the Malay world at the end of the 19th century.
The 19th century was also an era that witnessed diverse changes and reforms in Malay society, the same society that produced the traditional Malay literary works mentioned. Among the changes and reforms were the colonial system of administration, the system of modern education, the system of business and entry of foreign labour, and so on. These changes, whether via the systems of administration, education, or business and so on, brought reforms that had to be accepted by society, the effects of which were reflected in the literary works produced during this era. There is a great possibility that the wish and aspiration to continue to hold on to or be moored to something from the past encouraged the Malay society of the 19th century to continue to appreciate their traditional literary works. In this way, traditional Malay works had the opportunity to continue their development.
This book is the product of a study done on traditional Malay literature of the 19th century, based on existing researched material. This study was carried out by focussing attention on aspects that involved the study of texts, characteristics of writing, authorship, Malay authors as well as several genres of traditional Malay literature of the 19th century.
Through the collection/literary forms discussed in this book, it may be seen how developments in history, religion and knowledge greatly influenced the production of works of traditional Malay literature. This book also shows how social upheaval and transformation affected the thoughts and principles of life in Malay society, as reflected in works of traditional Malay literature.
Even though there is still a large number of Malay manuscripts that remain neglected and have not been systematically studied to assist in completing the description, there is also a significant number of studies that have been carried out. The information in the studies to date is sufficient in fulfilling the aims of the study. This effort is carried out in the awareness that new and current information may at any time be added to this study and such information may well improve, or indeed, change the images formed.
This study is based on several types of traditional Malay literary works comprising manuscripts and literary works written and copied in the 19th century (and also prior to that), results of critical studies of several traditional Malay literary works and critical studies and general appraisals of various aspects of traditional Malay literature by researchers of Malay literature, history, anthropology, sociology, political science and literary theory. Some of the texts, which in all are too numerous to be mentioned, include Sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Raja Pasai, Hikayat Banjar, Tuhfat al-Nafis, Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah, Hikayat Hang Tuah, Hikayat Inderaputera, Hikayat Sultan Ibrahim ibn Adham, and Hikayat Saiful-Yazan.
The materials used, especially in the form of manuscripts or traditional Malay texts, represent several genres in Malay literature such as religious literature, historical literature, legal literature, hikayat (tales or epics) literature and so on, from individual backgrounds of writing, development, influence and specific audiences that are unique. Besides, critical studies and assessment to a great extent involve the application of modern theories of anthropology sociology, history and literature. The application of several modern theories had to be included in the study in view of the great fascination among contemporary investigators of modern theories, whether literary or non-literary, in approaching traditional Malay literary works.
In this book, the author was not able to avoid commentary on studies on traditional Malay literary texts of previous scholars. Only in some cases is this book able to present a text that has not yet been discussed because it has been newly discovered, such as the Terengganu version of Tuhfat al-Nafis or Hikayat Shah Mardan that have been discussed in seminars, or the new Bima Malay Manuscript Collection that has only recently been made known to the general public.
Basically, Malay Literature of the 19th Century uses the historical, philological and anthropological approaches. As traditional Malay literature is the focus of this study, the application of the historical and philological approaches are the most appropriate. These are complemented with anthropological theories that are relevant in the field of literary study. From the historical and philological approaches, the focus of attention is on the production of literary works, whereas from the anthropological approach, the society that produced the works and also the patterns of change undergone by the society to the extent that they were portrayed in these works are scrutinised.