Universiti Putra Malaysia
Western colonialism, especially by the English and Dutch who came to the Malay world in the 17th and 18th centuries, introduced a new trend in literature that had expanded rapidly in line with the Industrial Revolution in Europe, known as realism. This trend emphasized the manifestation of ‘reality’, which means creating literature without ‘supernatural’ element or embellishment. This new trend forms a new genre known as autobiographies and biographies. Abdullah Munshi’s work titled Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah, was considered as the earliest autobiography to be written in Malay language. However, it has invited debate from several scholars that extended to a number of other autobiographical and biographical texts that emerged in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Local and Western scholars such as Syed Naquib al-Attas, Liaw Yock Fang, C. W. Watson and A. Sweeney attempt to justify their scale and classification of the terminology and interpretation of this genre as to suit the values and thinking for conventional Malay literature. This paper aims to compare and analyse the arguments of several scholars with regard to the classification and significance of autobiographies and biographies in Malay historiography. Hence, through the use of descriptive method, this paper will discuss the opinions of the above scholars, and eventually this study would reasoned as to what autobiographies and biographies genre that fit into Malay perspective.
Autobiography, biography, Malay historiography