Lecturer: Rodney Edgecombe
A thematic and structural study of two "academic" poets
Prescribed texts:
Complete editions of Richard Wilbur and Howard Nemerov are on short loan. Students can assemble their own anthologies after receiving a list of set poems at the first tutorial.
If you cannot afford the collected works of each poet, please compile your own collections of Xeroxed lyrics. We shall work through as many of the poems listed below as we can comfortably cover.  Be sure to acquire copies of each and every one, and please read them all (at least once) before the relevant class.

Richard Wilbur
The page references below derive from Richard Wilbur, New and Collected Poems (London: Faber, 1989)
‘Grace” (384); ‘The Beautiful Changes’ (392); ‘Caserta Garden’ (389); ‘He Was’ (332); ‘Ceremony’ (334); ‘From the Lookout Rock’ (327); A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra’ (271); ‘Advice to a Prophet’ (182); ‘In the Field’ (131); ‘Objects’ (360)

Howard Nemerov
The page references below derive from Howard Nemerov, Collected Poems (Chicago: Univ.of Chicago Press, 1977):
‘Lives of Gulls and children’ (79); ‘Midsummer’s Day’ (94); ‘The Pond’ (98); ‘The Salt Garden’ (112)
Assessment:  Two class essays


Lecturer: Rodney Edgecombe
This seminar will centre on a detailed structural and stylistic analysis of three novels by Patrick White, the Australian author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973.
Prescribed texts:
Any editions of the following three titles will be acceptable:
White, Patrick. The Solid Mandala
______. The Vivisector
______. The Eye of the Storm
Assessment: Two essays, equally weighted, on two of the texts.


Lecturer: Kelwyn Sole
Seminar Outline:
This seminar will examine the major themes and poets of the years after 1990, in an attempt to gain a more adequate overview of the issues surrounding South African poetry since liberation.  Prevalent themes such as identity (especially as regards gender and race), the ‘everyday’, memory and reconciliation, and political praise and disillusionment will be examined, as well as the issue of language and the interface between ‘published’ and ‘spoken-word’ poetry.
This course will crucially debate aesthetics and evaluative criteria and influences in literature.  The influence of metropolitan poetry movements such as imagism, surrealism, ‘leaping poetry’ and a postmodern ‘poetry of witness’  on contemporary South African poetry will be highlighted, as well as the influence of African models such as praise poetry and the poetry of Black Consciousness.  This will lead into a discussion of how to place South African utterances in the paradigms of modernism and/or post-modernism.
Among the poets discussed in class will be Karen Press, Seitlhamo Motsapi, Lesego Rampolokeng, Joan Metelerkamp, Ari Sitas, Tatamkhulu Africa, Ingrid de Kok and others.  In addition, students will be required to complete a project wherein they have free choice to examine poets/poems of their own choosing.

Required reading:
There are no necessary book purchases for this course, as readings will be made available.  However, it is a good idea to page through one or the other book anthologies that deal with post-1990 South African poetry before the course starts.  Students eager to grapple with aesthetic issues could begin to look at some of the criticism appearing in the metropole at the moment which argues the relative worth of ‘postcolonial’ vs. ‘world’ vs. ‘transnational’ literature as categories and descriptors. I found Ramazani’s recent A Transnational Poetics especially illuminating.


Lecturer: Hedley Twidle
Seminar Outline:

‘This is a workshop dedicated to the practice of writing – both critical and creative. Each week we will read a short piece, and write a short piece. A range of exercises will emerge out of our reading, as we use contemporary essays and short-form non-fiction to generate our own writing tasks and literary ‘field work’ in the wider city. These weekly texts will then be edited into a full portfolio. You will also be required to write a stand-alone essay on a subject of your choice, and to keep a semester-long journal. The weekly tasks are mandatory – so please join only if you enjoy writing, or want to learn how to enjoy it.
Some exercises might include: reviewing imaginary books (Borges, Chimurenga); using ‘found’ materials and tracing the lives of objects (Vladislavic); working within artificial constraints (Perec, OULIPO); linking image, music and text (Barthes, Sontag, Dyer, Sullivan); walking in the city (Sebald, Cole); interviewing and telling the stories of others (Benjamin, Malcolm, Ndebele); working with documentary forms, campus ethnography and the poetics of space (Bachelard). Throughout the semester we will be considering questions of voice, style, audience, creativity, critique, economy, editing and tone.

Prescribed texts:
You are not required to buy any texts for this seminar.
A course reader will be provided with all excerpts and essays. These will drawn from the following writers and publications: Martin Amis, James Baldwin, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Best American Essays 2012, Jorge Luis Borges, The Chimurenga Chronic, Teju Cole, Joan Didion, Geoff Dyer, Jamaica Kincaid, Janet Malcolm, Njabulo Ndebele, W.G. Sebald, Zadie Smith, Susan Sontag, John Jeremiah Sullivan, David Foster Wallace, Ivan Vladislavic, Alice Walker. We will also take time to reflect on the novels assigned in the core course.
Please feel free to email me for a more detailed reading list (hedley.twidle@uct.ac.za)

Review, narrative or critical essay: 30%
Journal: 20%
Final portfolio: 50%


Lecturer:  Derrrick Higginbotham
Seminar Outline:
What can queer theory teach us about the interpretation of contemporary literature and art?  To answer this question, we will study a variety of theoretical texts in conjunction with selected examples of contemporary writing and visual art produced in South Africa.  We specifically will consider a series of essays that exemplify key trends in queer theory, including influential work by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, JJ Halberstam, Graeme Reid, Brenna Munro, and others.  We will use these theoretical models to analyze autobiographical essays by Simon Nkoli and Zackie Ahmet, Nadine Gordimer’s None to Accompany Me (1994), Ashraf Jamal’s Love Themes for the Wilderness (1996), K. Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2002) as well as photos by Zanele Muholi from her project documenting black lesbians and transgender people in South Africa.  This class will stress the politics of representation and narration, with particular attention to how sexuality intersects with class, gender, race, and nation.  We also will concentrate on the kinds of stories that are told about sexuality and how different genres such as the novel, essay, theory, and photography frame sexuality in everyday, academic, and activist contexts.
We will have at least one special guest in the class:  while visiting the University of Cape Town this August, JJ Halberstam will hold a workshop for us.

Prescribed texts:
Nadine Gordimer, None to Accompany Me, ISBN 13: 9781250007711
Ashraf Jamal, Love Themes for the Wilderness, ISBN 13: 9780795700392
K. Sello Duiker, The Quiet Violence of Dreams, ISBN 13: 9780795701207

All the essays will be compiled in a Course Reader provided on the first day of classes.

Attendance/Participation                                                          10%
Response Papers (5% each)                                                     10%
Essay 1 (2000 words)                                                              30%
Annotated Bibliography as preparation for Essay 2                 10%                                          


Lecturer: Christine Emmett  
Seminar Outline
Ian McEwan is widely considered as one of Britain’s most significant living novelists. What is perhaps most fascinating about his status as a literary writer is the stark contrast between his early work and his most recent novels. This seminar will examine the trajectory of McEwan’s writing, from his first publication, First Love, Last Rites (1978), to his most recent novel, Sweet Tooth (2012). In examining some of his major works, we will consider how his writing develops from the shocking, macabre and claustrophobic world represented in his early fiction to the refined literary style of his later work. The culmination of the seminar will be our analysis of Atonement as his major literary novel. We will discuss how its use of metafiction and its engagement with narration, reading and history both depart but also reflect a refinement of the intertextual and sinister elements of his early fiction. We will also consider the novel’s adaptation to film and how it has been received and constructed as ‘literary’. The seminar will then conclude with his most recent novel as an indication of the latter developments of his writing. In our reading of his work we will draw on a variety of ideas and approaches, including postmodernist literary theory, masculinity studies and psychoanalysis. 

Prescribed Texts:
First Love, Last Rites (1975)
The Cement Garden (1978)
The Child in Time (1987)
Amsterdam (1998)
Atonement (2001)
Sweet Tooth (2012)
Film(s) to be Screened:
Joe Wright, Atonement (2007)

Class participation (10%)
Content tests and reader responses (25%)
Short assignment (25%)
Research assignment (40%)


Lecturer: Daniela Joffe
Seminar Outline:
“What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.”
– DFW, Oblivion

“We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple. But—”
                                                                                                                          – DFW, interview

The human interior is so complex as to be unspeakable. Unspeakable complexity is lonely. Serious fiction must attempt to “speak” complexity, to redeem loneliness. It might just be that simple. But—          

In this seminar, we will explore the ways in which the late David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) made complexity both the subject and the technique of his writing, adding a “but” to every simplification. We will see how Wallace’s work amplifies, rather than silences, the polyphony of language and of thought—in an attempt to create a more authentic literature that might speak to and redeem a world of complex, lonely selves.

Perhaps most importantly we will learn to practise the same cultivation of complexity that Wallace himself embodied. We will try to become readers and critics that do not smother the ambiguity of the authors and texts we encounter but instead seek to sustain it.

Infinite Jest (selected excerpts)
Pale King (selected excerpts)

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (selected essays)
Consider the Lobster (selected essays)

Short Stories:
Oblivion (selected short stories)
Girl with the Curious Hair (selected short stories)

In addition to the texts above, we will also watch, listen and read a variety of Wallace’s interviews for television, radio and print.
Essay 1: 40%
Essay 2: 40%
Participation: 20%


Lecturer:Penny Busetto
Seminar Outline:
What is madness? Is it an illness to be cured, or is it divine creativity? Is it the opposite of reason or is it reason itself taken to its extreme? Is it the swirling chaos of the Id, the unconscious, which, if made conscious, will disappear and lose its power? What part do culture and history play in it? Do we really know what talking about madness means, and can we even ask this question logically? Can logic ever comprehend madness? This paradox goes to the root of Western thought and has engaged scholars over the centuries. Only through literature has madness been able to speak for itself, or at least with some freedom. In this seminar series we will examine the intersection of several ongoing debates, in philosophy, psychoanalysis and psychiatry, to try and come to some understanding of the place of literature in these debates. Our focus will be on contemporary South African fiction. The point will be less to find an answer than to undertake an analysis – and a problematisation – of the question.
The course will be based on selected readings from the following authors:

Shoshana Felman, Michel Foucault, Franz Fanon, Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud, CG Jung, Wilfred Bion, Michael Eigen, Donald Winnicott, Jacques Lacan, Julian Leff, Sally Swartz, the DSM 5.

And the following literary texts:
Zakes Mda – Heart of Redness
Shawn Johnson – The Native Commissioner
Bessie Head – A Question of Power
J.M. Coetzee – The Heart of the Country
Henk van Woerden – A Mouthful of Glass
Antjie Krog – Country of My Skull

Assessment: Two class essays.


Lecturer: Christopher Ouma
Seminar Outline:
The emergence of new writing from the postcolonial African diaspora has led to a re-configuration and re-examination of generations of African literature, as well as ways in which this “new Diaspora” is beginning to re-engage with recent waves of migration and displacement. This new writing allows us to begin to trace genealogies of African writing, while trying to evaluate what exactly defines this potentially new zeitgeist. One of the ways in which this writing defines itself is by engaging with a residual post-colonial experience through a post-modern consciousness – one which arguably constructs its own aesthetics of displacement and migration. The seminar will position us at the pulse of contemporary constructions of postcolonial African identities, while additionally allowing us a window into the evolutionary directions of African literature at the moment.

Primary Texts:
The Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Virgin of Flames – Chris Abani
One Day I will Write about this Place – Binyavanga Wainaina
A Life Elsewhere – Segun Afolabi
The Icarus Girl – Helen Oyeyemi

Evaluation for this course will take the format of two sit-in tests (weighted at 25% each) and an essay (weighted at 50%)


Lecturer: Victoria Collis-Buthelezi
Seminar Outline:
The emergence of new writing from the postcolonial African diaspora has led to a re-configuration and re-examination of generations of African literature, as well as ways in which this “new Diaspora” is beginning to re-engage with recent waves of migration and displacement. This new writing allows us to begin to trace genealogies of African writing, while trying to evaluate what exactly defines this potentially new zeitgeist. One of the ways in which this writing defines itself is by engaging with a residual post-colonial experience through a post-modern consciousness – one which arguably constructs its own aesthetics of displacement and migration. The seminar will position us at the pulse of contemporary constructions of postcolonial African identities, while additionally allowing us a window into the evolutionary directions of African literature at the moment.

Book List:
Rene Maran, Batouala (1921)
Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark (1934)
Aimé Cesaire, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (1939)
Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of this World (1949)
Sam Selvon, An Island is a World (1955)
Peter Abrahams, This Island Now (1966)
Derek Walcott, Dream on Monkey Mountain (1967)
V.S. Naipaul, Guerillas (1975)

Film(s) to be Screened:
Robert Parrish, Fire Down Below (1957)
Hugh A. Robertson, Bim (1974)
Stephanie Black, Life and Debt (2001)

In-class presentation and class participation (20%)
Weekly reader's responses (30%)
Final research paper (50%)


Lecturer: Meg Samuelson
Seminar Outline:
IWe will begin with short fiction by Melville and Conrad that is written in, or in the wake of, the ‘age of sail’ and which will establish two central threads running through this elective: the ontological instability and crisis of reading inaugurated by being ‘at sea’; and, bildung and the development of the (masculine) subject in negotiation with the natural force of the sea. Thereafter, we will read Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies, which brings together on board a ship traversing the “alchemy of the open water” lascars, freedmen, sailors, indentured labourers, prisoners and cross-dressing or caste-crossing women. Having voyaged across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, we turn in the second half of the course to the coasts of California, South Australia and Durban as we study novels and films that engage surf practice and culture to stage narratives of becoming and constructions and performances of (non)normative masculinities, and which contribute to the elaboration of “surf noir”. Throughout, we will attend to various oppositions that are stabilized or churned up in the sea, including labour and leisure, surface and underneath, vulnerability and invulnerability, nature and culture, masculinity and femininity, youth and maturity.

Prescribed texts:
Short fiction by Herman Charles Melville and Joseph Conrad (to be provided)
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies (2008)
Kem Nunn, Tapping the Source (1984)
Tim Winton, Breath (2008)

Films(to be screened):
Big Wednesday (dir. John Milius; screenplay John Milius & Dennis Aaberg, 1978)
Otelo Burning (dir. Sara Blecher; screenplay James Whyle, Sara Blecher, Cast Workshop, 2012)

Assessment: class presentation: 10%; written exercises: 30%; final essay (3,000 words): 60%.


Lecturer: Eric Strand
Seminar Outline:
The United States owes many of its noblest political movements, such as environmentalism and feminism, to the social energy of the 1960s.  At the same time, much of this rebellious energy was easily incorporated by multinational business, in a project of branding that made the counterculture everyone’s culture.  Through a detailed analysis of contemporary literature and selected films, we will explore the darker side of the counterculture’s divided legacy.  In particular, our readings will focus on the argument that as the counterculture evolved, it developed an “antistatist,” or “antigovernmental” ideology that actually lead to depoliticization instead of greater political awareness.  Although it may have had good intentions, this antistatist ideology inadvertently prepared the way for the emergence of neoliberalism, a right-wing political movement that attacked “big government” and social welfare programs in the name of free-market economics. 

In addition to introducing you to the Beats, the counterculture, and the postmodern novel, this class will immerse you in some of America’s present-day debates.  To a large degree, America’s cultural and political landscape is still shaped by the aftermath of the Sixties.

Prescribed texts:
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Bret Easton Ellis, Less than Zero
Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

Course Reader:  Thomas Frank, “Why Johnny Can’t Dissent”; Joan Didion, essays from Slouching Towards Bethlehem; Pico Iyer, essays from Video Night in Kathmandu

Rebel Without a Cause, dir. Nicholas Ray
Easy Rider, dir. Dennis Hopper
Star Wars, dir. George Lucas
Forrest Gump, dir. Robert Zemeckis


Essay 1 (5 pages):  40%
Essay 2 (5 pages):  40%
Attendance/Participation:  20%


Lecturer: Donald Powers
Seminar Outline:
The focus of this seminar is the experimental novel. We will study works by four recent novelists who reimagine literary form by weaving prose narrative from academic criticism, poems, dreams, letters, journals, and photographs. We will discuss style, literary influence, intertextuality, metafiction, self-quotation, pastiche, theory of photography, the language of literary criticism and psychoanalysis, flânerie, the relation between individual history and collective memory, English and textuality in a globalised world. Beyond the four primary texts we will read criticism on each, extracts from early and late experimentalists in narrative fiction (Cervantes, Sterne, Calvino, Borges), and essays on directions in contemporary fiction.

Primary texts:
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)
D.M. Thomas, The White Hotel (1981)
W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz (2001)
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (2004)

10 weekly mini-essays (250 words each)
2 Research Essays (2500 words each)