Module Review: USE2312 Nationalism and the Arts

Collated by Amanda Kee

Contributions from Choo Ruizhi, Wang Ziqiao, Josephine Ng, Lauren Koh, Tan Hui Han, and Ng Zu Yao

As the new semester kicks off, we’re once again witnessing the revitalization of staunch “new sem new me” resolutions. However, while some of us might merely be going through the motions of university life last semester, for a group of peers who had undergone the Nationalism and the Arts module, time passed just a little differently.

In an interview with peers across the generations of Nationalism and the Arts (USE2312), a USP inquiry/Singapore Studies module taught by A/P Barbara Ryan better known as ‘Nat and Arts,’ I listen to the stories that stir minds and hearts.

Q: How will you describe Nat and Arts?

A: Frustrating. Most of the time, Prof Ryan refuses to give you the answers. But I think the struggle to get to there is the important part. It’s also about coming to terms with one’s limitations – and being able to move beyond that.

Enabling. I had 2 worries: English is not a language that I am confident in; I am a Science student. But, I became more confident in my communicative skills despite it being a content-heavy class.

Thoughtful.  I used to think intellect was about always having the right answer… or the snarkiest answer. But, Nat and Arts taught me how not to. Knowing when not to speak is as important as knowing when to do so. I learnt to be less of a d***. Marginally so.


Revealing the “art” of giving: Cupcakes from a beautiful classmate

 Q:What is your biggest takeaway in Nat and Arts?

A: (in chorus) Descending Mount Olympus. We had to unlearn the academic tradition of speaking as if we were experts on issues. [Prof Ryan] challenges us to acknowledge our limitations. I had taken [sic] her class exactly 1 year ago, and the sense of humility that she instilled in me has spilled over into my personal life.

To be sincere. I think one of the most powerful takeaways was to learn to be sincere, not just in creating art, but also in living our lives. Our sense of identity starts to take shape as we pay more attention to the nuances in our daily lives.


What better way to understand art than holding the heavy (?) weight of the pen (Sem1/2014)

Q: If you were to take the module again, what would you be more prepared for/look out for/wish more of?

A: It would have been great to enter the module with more knowledge of general art or philosophical movements across time.

I wouldn’t. I think on top of everything, Prof Ryan has shown me that uncertainty and ignorance are sometimes part of the adventure of inquiry and curiosity.

I am grateful to Choo Ruizhi, Wang Ziqiao, Josephine Ng and Lauren Koh from the 2014 batch and Tan Hui Han and Ng Zu Yao from the 2015 batch who had taken their time to share with me their thoughts!