Research Group: New Directions in the Study of Javanese Literature


[RG # 155] New Directions in the Study of Javanese Literature

September 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019


Ronit Ricci (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Javanese literature is among the world’s richest and most unusual literary traditions yet it is currently little known outside of Java, Indonesia. The vast majority of Javanese texts, in manuscript and print form, remain untouched by scholars.

The Javanese are the largest Muslim ethno-linguistic group in the world and the largest ethnic group in Indonesia, with their language spoken today by approximately 100 million people. Beginning in the ninth century and into the present they have produced a complex, diverse and intricate literary corpus that is a gateway to understanding Javanese writing practices, approaches to language, poetics, and translation strategies. Through its narrative histories, theological and legal treatises and interlinear translations from Arabic to Javanese, this literature also offers insights on Java’s remarkable transition to Islam, half a world away - geographically, culturally and linguistically - from Islam’s birthplace in the Middle East.

The study of Javanese in western universities has declined dramatically and it is currently on the verge of disappearance. The research group aims to revitalize this important humanistic field by:

  1. creating a rare opportunity for scholars to read, study and discuss Javanese texts collaboratively

  2. examining and analyzing yet unstudied Javanese works, thus broadening the basis of Javanese texts on which to generalize and theorize

  3. exploring anew previously studied texts, employing innovative methodological and theoretical perspectives from Comparative Literature, Islamic Studies, Cultural Studies and Performance Studies, and

  4. in light of the above, reconceptualizing and remapping major dimensions of the field of Javanese literature including periodization, contextualization, literary categorizations, and interpretive methods.

Mindful of the newness of Indonesian and Javanese Studies within Israeli academia, group members also aim to contribute (individually and collectively) to the expansion and strengthening of these fields in Israel. 



Anthony Day

J. Anthony Day

Independent Scholar

Anthony Day teaches world literature and Southeast Asian history, and writes scholarly articles on Southeast Asian literature and film. Formerly a faculty member at Yale-NUS College Singapore, Dr. Day is now an independent scholar. 

Willem van der Molen

Willem van der Molen

Universitas Indonesia
Willem van der Molen is a senior researcher at KITLV and professor of philology and Old Javanese at Universitas Indonesia in Depok, Indonesia.