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Oral Traditions of South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Successful completion of at least 45 EC from the first year (propaedeutics) of the bachelor’s programme in South and Southeast Asian Studies including Hindi 2 or Sanskrit 2 or Tibetan 2 or Indonesian 2. Please, contact the convenor, Dr. A.T.P.G. van Engelenhoven, if you are interested in taking this course, but do NOT fulfill the abovementioned requirement.


‘Oral Traditions’ is an umbrella term for the total of orally transmitted cultural knowledge. This course intends to give an introduction in semiotics through focussing on an oral tradition or verbal art in South and Southeast Asia. The midterm divided the course in two parts. Before the midterm most attention will be devoted to the principles of orality and semiotics. This part will be the same in every course. The second part may be changed every year and focuses this year on the phenomenon of puppetry.

Course objectives

  • Introduction to the study of oral folklore

  • Introduction to semiotics: de Saussure versus Peirce: signs, semiosis, mimesis

  • Types of puppetry in South and Southeast Asia

  • Performance strategies versus perception strategies



Mode of instruction


Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

5 EC = 140 hours.

  • Seminar: 13 × 2 hours = 26 hours

  • Reading tasks: 11 × 5 = 55 hours

  • Preparation midterm task = 20 hours

  • Preparation presentation = 8 hours

  • Paper = 31 hours

Assessment method


  • weekly reading tasks

  • midterm task

  • presentation

  • final paper

  • presence and participation


  • weekly reading tasks:10% of the final grade

  • midterm task: 20% of the final grade

  • presentation: 20% of the final grade

  • final paper: 40% of the final grade

  • presence and participation:10% of the final grade


The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of “5.50” (=6) or higher.

This course is an integrated whole. Everything needs to be taken in the same academic year. It is not possible to transfer results to a next course.

Exam review

If a student requests in writing a review of his/her final paper within 30 days after publication of the exam results, a paper review will be organized.


Homework, discussions and grades are posted on Blackboard

Reading list

readings from:

  • Chandler, Daniel, 2007. Semiotics: The Basics. Oxon: Routledge

  • Sebeok, Thomas A., 2001. Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics. University of Toronto Press.
    Other literature to be announced during class


Students of the BA South and Southeast Asian Studies are required to register through uSis before January 15. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Other students are requested to send an email to the study co-ordinator including their name, student IDnumber, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the study co-ordinator will register these students after January 15. By February 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

(Studeren à la carte is not possible for this course.)


Dr. A.T.P.G. van Engelenhoven


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).