This thesis focuses on two issues, these are the development of national literature in Bali, which I term Indonesian Literature of Bali, and an examination of several important issues which arise from those works in a context of Balinese ideas of modernity and identity in twentieth century. The study of Indonesian literature still focuses predominantly on works published by nationally recognised writers published by printing companies based in Jakarta, Indonesia's political, economic, and cultural centre. However, by the early 1990s, critics had begun to show interest in the development of regional Indonesian literature and its significance in expressing regional identity. This study eschews the nationally oriented approach and follows the new trend, taking Bali as a case study.
Since its emergence in the 1920s—the decade in which modem Indonesian literature came into being—many debates and a great deal of discussion about modern literature have appeared in newspapers and magazines published in Bali. Like the national literature, Indonesian literature of Bali can therefore be labelled "newspaper literature" or sastra koran. The lack of available commercial publishing facilities both in Bali and at the national level has meant that until recently few books were published, thereby ensuring that newspapers and magazines remains the main outlet for literature. There is much evidence that newspapers and magazines are more than just a place for literary publication because aspects of public discourse which are debated in newspapers intersect with the themes of Balinese literature written in Indonesian. "Contextual literature" or sastra kontekstual is another characteristics of Indonesian literature by Balinese writers because its themes predominantly express issues of local concern.
The development of Indonesian literature of Bali can be divided into four broad periods: the colonial, national revolution, New Order and reformation periods. This division involves the discussion and analysis of shifting political and social conditions, including colonial policies, nationalist movements, the role of communist ideology in the new state particularly in the era of President Sukarno (1945-1966), the development-driven focus of the Suharto reign (1966-1998), and the liberalisation of recent years. With this periodisation it is possible to see changes and continuities in the ways in which Balinese perceptions of modernity and identity are expressed in literary works. Several genres including novels, short stories, drama and especially poetry, the most popular Balinese literary form, are examined.
In this thesis, Indonesian literary works written by Balinese writers are analysed in the context of contemporary social and cultural discourse rather than interpreted in a specifically literary or aesthetic maimer. The majority of the works discussed here were originally published in local newspapers and magazines, which were the media through which debates forming part of this discourse were conducted. When these periodicals introduced commentary on an aspect of social life, literary works using that topic as a theme always followed. This resulted in radical and varied interpretations of some of these issues such as the caste system, the position of women, changing uses of space and land resulting from tourism and the interaction between Balinese and Westerners.
Balinese writers have used national literature as a medium for constructing and reassessing their identity. This suggests that, rather then passively receiving traditional values and modem influences, Balinese writers have been actively engaged in constructing their own concepts of modernity and identity in the context of national and global change. Balinese literature has proved to be a mirror on the way Balinese ideas on modernity and identity is discussed across different periods of the twentieth century.