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Gwee Li Sui

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Gwee Li Sui

Gwee Li Sui (Chinese: 魏俐瑞, born 22 August 1970) is a literary critic, a poet, and a graphic artist from Singapore.


Gwee began education at the now-defunct MacRitchie Primary School and then continued at Anglo-Chinese Secondary School, Anglo-Chinese Junior College, and the National University of Singapore. He graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in English literature in 1995 and was awarded the NUS Society Gold Medal for Best Student in English. His Honours thesis was on Günter Grass's novel, The Tin Drum (German: Die Blechtrommel). After completing his Masters under a research scholarship on another German writer Hermann Broch, he worked as a Senior Tutor at the NUS Department of English Language and Literature. In 1999, he was given an overseas scholarship to pursue his doctorate in eighteenth-century literature at Queen Mary, University of London. Gwee wrote his doctoral thesis on the discursive influence of Newtonianism on poetry from the English Enlightenment to early German Romanticism.[1]

Returning to lecture at NUS in 2003, Gwee worked as an Assistant Professor in English literature until 2009. During this time, he was a long-standing advisor to the NUS Literary Society, which has traditionally groomed some of Singapore's best writers. Academic topics Gwee has written on include the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, German idealism, history of science, Christian theology, German literature, and literary theory. In the field of Singaporean literature, Gwee has been writing radical articles on its poetic history up to the present and consistently challenged standard assumptions made about literary productions in Singapore. In 2010, he was invited to be a foreign writer- and critic-in-residence at the Toji Cultural Centre in South Korea.[2]

Gwee has since been teaching at various institutions and universities. He is regularly sought for his opinions on literature, language, and religion and has been on the evaluation panel for several top literary awards in Singapore, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. He edits for an online poetry journal, Softblow, and an Asian commentary website, New Asia Republic. Between 2008 and 2011, he hosted public interviews with Singaporean cultural figures at an independent bookstore, BooksActually. From 2013, he begins "Sing Lit 101", a lecture series for the public, at The Arts House. A popular literary speaker at schools and festivals, he currently oversees young writers in the Writers' Programme at Raffles Institution.


Gwee wrote what is arguably Singapore’s first full-length graphic novel, Myth of the Stone, published in 1993. Before this book, there existed primarily collections of graphic short stories by Singaporeans. This long out-of-print book is part-children's story and part-allegory and follows a boy's adventures in a fantastical realm of mismatched mythical creatures. A 20th-anniversary edition of Myth of the Stone will be issued finally by Epigram Books in 2013.

Gwee produced in 1998 a well-received volume of humorous verse, Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems?, which was full of linguistic play, Singlish rhymes, and jabs at social history and culture.[3] His wider poetry is known for its versatility, engaging a wide range of styles and moods, and is featured in several anthologies and literary journals. Gwee has been contributing drawings and comics to a wide range of publications too. A long-anticipated new collection of verse will be released in 2013.

Gwee is also the editor of one of two seminal critical volumes on Singaporean and Malaysian literature in English under the title Sharing Borders: Studies in Contemporary Singaporean-Malaysian Literature (2009). In his introduction, he exposes the problems of ideology that continue to plague the new literatures of Singapore and Malaysia ironically in the name of postcolonial studies. He is one of the editors for a bilingual collection of 100 Singaporean and Malaysian poems, From the Window of the Epoch, published in 2010.

Gwee further edited the best-selling fiction collection, Telltale: Eleven Stories in 2010. This book, which features stories by six Singaporean writers born after Singapore Independence in 1965, was nominated for the Popular Readers' Choice Award that year. It has since been adopted as a Literature O-Level text in school. In 2011, he edited an anthology of human rights-based literary works called Man/Born/Free: Writings on the Human Spirit from Singapore. The volume pays tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela and was launched in Cape Town, South Africa.

Gwee recently edited, with Michelle Heng, Edwin Thumboo - Time Travelling: A Select Annotated Bibliography (With Recollections and Critical Essays) in 2012. This book for researchers brings to a close his years of bibliographical and biographical work on Singapore's pioneering poet, Edwin Thumboo, for the National Library Board. Gwee is since also loved for for his readers' introductions to books by Singaporean writers as diverse as Crace Chia, Dave Chua, and Cyril Wong.

Select Bibliography

Graphic Novel

Poetry Book


Edited Volumes

  • Sharing Borders: Studies in Contemporary Singaporean-Malaysian Literature II (National Library Board and National Arts Council of Singapore, 2009) ISBN 978-981-08-3912-3 (hbk), ISBN 978-981-08-3913-0 (pbk)
  • From the Window of the Epoch: An Anthology of Malaysian and Singaporean Poems, edited with Shamsudin Othman, Mohamed Pitchay Gani bin Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Tan Chee Lay, and Seetha Lakshmi (National Institute of Translation of Malaysia and National Arts Council of Singapore, 2010) ISBN 978-983-068-480-2
  • Telltale: Eleven Stories (Ethos Books, 2010) ISBN 978-981-08-6152-0
  • Man/Born/Free: Writings on the Human Spirit from Singapore (Ethos Books, 2011) ISBN 978-981-08-8277-8
  • Edwin Thumboo - Time Travelling: A Select Annotated Bibliography (With Recollections and Critical Essays), edited with Michelle Heng (National Library Board of Singapore, 2012). ISBN 978-981-07-3347-6 (hbk), ISBN 978-981-07-3348-3 (pbk)


  • "Poetry and the Renaissance Machine in Singapore," Harvard Asia Quarterly, Vol. 9.1-2 (2005).
  • "Boey Kim Cheng’s Singapore," Dialogue, Vol. 2.2 (2006).
  • "The Road People: Poetry and Urban (Im)Mobility in Singapore," Asiatic, Vol. 2.2 (2008).
  • "The Art of Not Learning: Two Versions," CDTL Brief, Vol. 11.1 (2008).
  • "Christian to Christian: Collective Repentance," New Asia Republic, 27 February 2010.
  • "Speak Up or Be Spoken For!," New Asia Republic, 5 May 2010.


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