My Dissertation:

The Twisting Staff:
Strategy, Structure and Genre
in the Malay Muslim Court
Literary Tradition

Stephen Arod Shirreffs, Ph.D.
South and Southeast Asian Studies
University of California at Berkeley


First and foremost, this dissertation, simply put, would not have been possible without the unqualified and "relentless" support of my advisor and friend Professor Amin Sweeney. There is no part of this work that has not been the object of his penetrating mind, and there has been no question posed to him to which he has failed to apply his full intellect. Sometimes humored, sometimes enraged, sometimes perplexed, but often enough impressed, Sweeney (as I call him) was always available no matter what. Amin Sweeney represents, from my perspective, what is good and enduring in the pursuit of knowledge. I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Next, I want to acknowledge the deep influence upon my thinking that Ira Lapidus has made. I first met Professor Lapidus in his introductory, survey course on Islamic history during my undergraduate years. From that first day he altered my approach to history, infusing it with a constant eye to sociology and to the repercussions of "elites." Throughout the writing of this dissertation, as Sweeney will attest, I continually tested my arguments against my perception of how Professor Lapidus would respond; the effect has been, I hope, a great reduction in unfounded assertion. More than anything, however, I deeply appreciate the faith in me that he has continually shown.

I wish also to thank Professor James Monroe whose penetrating readings of the Arabic Maqâmât and whose classes on the Arabian Nights caused me over and over to contemplate the problems of universality and specificity in both "traditional" and intellectual textual traditions. Professor Ben Brinner, whose specialty is Javanese music, helped greatly to open my eyes to the importance of sonority in establishing meaning in a verbal form through his involvement in teaching the interdisciplinary seminar "Noetics and Poetics" with Sweeney and Professor Bridgett Connelly. My subsequent encounter with Professor Chana Kronfeld in her graduate seminar "Modernism in the Margins" deepened these considerations despite, or perhaps on account of, my being the only Asianist in the group.

I would like to thank Professor H.M.G. Maier of Leiden for serving on my committee despite our having met only briefly. A special thank you is due to Professor Aditya Behl who came aboard my committee at the very end of the process but whose incisive comments during the defense cast new light upon my approaches in this work. The Center for Southeast Asia Studies at Berkeley and its coordinator, Dr. Eric Crystal, are due thanks for the several grants for travel and the overall support which they provided. I would also like to thank the Mellon Foundation for the three years of fellowship support which it provided.

Dr. Will Derks of the IIAS in Amsterdam was a source both of encouragement and insight in our several much enjoyed encounters in San Francisco. His recent work on the continuing influences of orality in Indonesian life dovetails so well with my ideas of a similar relationship in the Malay kingdoms that I cannot but think that our conversations influenced my ideas greatly. Tom Cooper, a fellow graduate student at Berkeley, and his wife Amy Cooper have been stalwart allies and I greatly appreciate their strength of character and its influence upon me. Our conversations in their home about Tom's carefully maintained collection of traditional Balinese painting have always left me marveling at how many different ways people tell stories.

No person deserves more thanks than my best friend of twenty-four years, Ian Mackenzie. It was during my first voyage to Asia in 1983, in a broiling coffee shop in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, that Ian first posed to me the idea of going to university and formalizing my pursuit of learning. From that very moment, without stint, he has been a tower of support and an intellectual companion. We have traveled through life for so long that he is my brother as much as my friend. Moreover, I have also enjoyed and benefited from his slicing wit, notwithstanding that I may not thereby have produced the definitive tome on "The Role of Onomatopoeia in 15th Century Malay Literature."

I would also like to thank Roy Ortopan, UC Berkeley librarian emeritus, whose unstintingly provided personal support alongside a willingness to debate all manner of arcane issues and their ramifications both for my dissertation as well as for the larger context of the humanities; his kind inclusion of me in his expeditions to live theater provided needed recreation especially in the last year of my work. In the latter half of my graduate career, my friendship with Joe Sartelle and his partner Carlos Camargo, both formerly from the English Department at Berkeley, provided me by turns with companionship, support through dark hours, and a ready willingness to rip to shreds any foolish literary ideas that I dared issue. I remain more of a formalist than either thinks wise, but I am happily more critical of "knee-jerk" formalism as a result of our discussions. Their knowledgeable perspective on the idiocies of academic politics, quite literally, helped me to survive Berkeley. I want to thank my baseball buddy, David Lamble, with whom I discussed many of the ideas in this dissertation as well as what he would call the "defugalties" of academic politics. In similar fashion, my friendship with June Foster provided a ready source of strength and respite. Although June is not an academic, she repeatedly helped me to cut through the dross of a bad argument and get back to the heart of the matter. June and I met in the tragedy of the loss of a mutual friend, but our friendship has become grounded in loyalty and conversation.

I dedicated this dissertation to the memory of lost friends, and a brief word on each of them seems appropriate. Michael Merrill died before I knew the direction my graduate life would take; that is a deep sadness to me for I have never known anyone more gifted in understanding human politics, both grand and petty. Jack Green was my buddy; our friendship started when we escaped the horror of his lover's slow demise by going to Cal basketball games. But when David was gone, Jack and I continued to provide creative repose for each other in the face of life's pains both great and small. Kurt Woodill was my teacher. He imparted to me his knowledge of the centrality of spiritual experience in human life, as well as his deep understanding of the importance of how one lives. Gary Bandiera was my first lover of ten years, and my lifelong friend thereafter. I miss his acerbic wit and penetrating sarcasm, and I regret that we cannot share the end of a process which we started together. Robin Simpson, my friend since 1975, was a bon vivant who continually posed the necessity that work be leavened with play. That these men are gone, struck down in their prime by a cruel fate, provides me with a daily goad to live my own life to the fullest. The memory of their lives and their love is with me every moment.

So many scholars and friends have played a role in the present work that I must resort to a list to give due thanks and appreciation to these fine people: Bambang Sumantri, Norma Charles, Dr. William Collins, Dr. Elaine Craddock, Dr. Daniel Curzon-Brown, Prof. Shelly Errington, Isabel Flood, Margaret Flood, Tony Fox, Frans, Robert Giard, Prof. Robert Goldman, David Halpert, Prof. George Hart, Kongsab La Hatlavongsa, Dr. John Hayes, Prof. Padmanabh Jaini, Cynthia Josayma, Dr. Kathy Kaufman, Susan Kepner, Mag Khoo, Joann Lee, Theresa Lin, Bronwen M., Steve Miller, Edward M. O'Brien, Dr. Keng-Fong Pang, Nic Pereira, Dr. Ward Peterson, Professor Herbert P. Phillips, Pudjianto, Rahman Yusof, Dr. Puspita Suryani Handaya, Preston Bushamos Pharaoh, Jane Po, Dr. Gayle Rubin, Virginia Shih, Dr. Jonathon Silin, Marsillam Simanjuntak, Prof. John Smith, Charles Trapolin, Prof. C.W. Watson, Doug Young.

I want to thank my parents, Keith and Joyce Shirreffs, not only for having me in the first place, but for believing in me all these years no matter what I have chosen to do.

Last, but far from least, I want to express my deep appreciation and love for my life partner, Richard Board, who has suffered more for this dissertation than anyone. He has endured with aplomb and selflessness every emotion, all the fears and tears, and the countless hours of my solitude and detachment. I cannot imagine that I could have completed this work without his support, and I cannot contemplate a future life without our partnership.

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| Created January 3, 1996 | Modified May 17, 2007 |

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