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ENGLISH DEPARTMENT LAUNCHES NEW STUDIES

Combine in-depth study of African literature with courses on JM Coetzee, Ecology and Literature, Conversations with the South, and Digital Cultures through a course-work MA at UWC’s Department of English.

UWC ENGLISH DEPARTMENT LAUNCHES INNOVATIVE MA COMBINATIONS IN AFRICAN LITERARY, CULTURAL AND ECOLOGICAL STUDIES 

Combine in-depth study of African literature with courses on JM Coetzee, Ecology and Literature, Conversations with the South, and Digital Cultures through a course-work MA at UWC’s Department of English. Students also complete a mini-thesis of 20-40,000 words.


Semester 1 and 2

African Fictions and Theories (ENG859) runs the length of the academic year. Prior knowledge of African literature is not a prerequisite. The module consists of a series of two- and three-week segments that enable students and staff to engage in rigorous debate on a range of topics, including: Slave Narratives: Diasporas and Questions of Belonging; African Travel Narratives; The Invention of Modern African Literature; Realism and African Literature; Negritude, Nativism and Cosmopolitanism; Magical Realism and Afro-Modernism; Psychology, Power and the Other; Autobiography and Memoir; Biodocumentary. Exposed to variety of canonical and contemporary African texts, students will finish with a rich theoretical framework, based on local and international sources, for evaluating African literature and film.


Combine this course with semester-length modules on

Semester 1: The Narratives of J.M. Coetzee; Ecology and Writing; Directed Reading.

Semester 2: Digital Cultures; South Talk: Shared Futures, Shared Pasts; Directed Reading. 


Directed Reading (ENG829)

Students may take this module in either semester by arrangement with the lecturer concerned. It serves several useful purposes. For instance, 

A member of staff may wish to offer a specialized course at an advanced level.

  • A student may wish to engage in an intensive reading and research programme under the personal supervision of a staff member. 

  • A student may undertake a literature review to prepare for the mini-thesis. 

Students may only take this module once.


Semester 1

The Narratives of J.M. Coetzee (ENG825)

This course focuses on the way Coetzee uses the traditional novel as a way of imagining a world engaged with but free from the confines of the past. We will be concerned with the way the novel shapes Coetzee’s writings, and enables him to write in a particularly modern way. Defoe, Flaubert, Kafka and Dostoevsky provide Coetzee with the platform for developing a way of writing, and a mode of consciousness, which we can call Modernism. We will also be drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida, and his notion of ‘writing’. Key texts: Derrida, Of Grammatology, “Plato’s Pharmacy” (in Dissemination); Coetzee, Doubling the Point; Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet; Coetzee, Dusklands; Defoe, Roxana; Coetzee, Foe; Kafka, The Castle, The Trial; Coetzee, Life & Times of Michael K; Dostoevsky, The Possessed (The Devils); Coetzee, The Master of Petersburg. 


Ecology and Writing (ENG821) 

Term 1: Animal Subjects:

How do we represent the nonhuman and/or the relationship between humans and other animals? John Berger believes that animals “first entered the imagination as messengers and promises.” For him, they were our first symbols. Yet if animals remain symbols, we discount the individualities of particular animals and they are merely extensions of our projections. The philosopher Rosi Braidotti believes that “animal[s] can no longer be metaphorized as other but need to be taken on [their] own terms.” In the Humanities a quiet revolution has been taking place for the last 20 years or so as “the animal turn” has gained momentum and now permeates history, geography, English studies, philosophy as well as the social sciences. 

In literature, novelists depict animal subjects and/or animal narrators; poets imagine themselves into the bodies and minds of the nonhuman. How do we engage with these texts? J.M. Coetzee’s “sympathetic imagination” is a good place to begin, along with Daston and Mitman’s new notion of anthropomorphism as we “think with animals.” We can also ask if animals are represented as having a point of view or are assigned agency, in short, whether they are knowing subjects.

In this module we will read a number of texts which foreground very specific issues in relation to animals. We will read work by a literary critic, an environmental philosopher, an anthropologist, a wild-life activist, an art critic and a paleoanthropologist. We will read poetry too. Readings include: Freya Matthews “Without Animals Life is not worth living” [the individual animal]; Deborah Bird Rose Ch 1 of Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction [ecological and traditional aspects]; Linda Tucker Ch 24 of Saving the White Lions [wild animals and activism]; Giovanni Aloi  Ch 1 of Art and Animals  [animals in art]; Giovanni Aloi  Ch 1 of Art and Animals  [animals in documentaries]; Pat Shipman Ch 16 and 17 of The Animal Connection [animals in evolution].

Term 2: Writing on Place and Places

The idea of ‘place’ is a key concept in ecological thinking, both in discourses associated with the practices of environmental movements, and in more literary or philosophical responses to the crisis of environment and development. At the same time, it may be argued that this emphasis is potentially counter-productive: that the focus on (locally specific) place-bound identities is an insufficient basis for the radical social transformation which the present crisis requires, or that the literature of ‘place’ readily becomes a parochial retreat from engagement with global or transnational factors and perspectives. So in this part of the course, we consider what recent models may be available for writing imaginatively about place (the particular, local specificities of a given location, bioregion or neighbourhood) in terms that witness to the ecological, historical, political and other flows of energy and information in which that place is situated.

This module is also part of the MA in Creative Writing programme. It is better suited to students who have an interest in and commitment to creative writing. The conveners may request a portfolio from Students who are not already part of the Creative Writing progamme.


Semester 2 

South Talk: Shared Futures, Shared Pasts (ENG817)

Term 3: Dreams of Freedom

Students are introduced to the field of South African literature written in English, from the 1945 to the present, with a focus on the way a post-racial future is imagined. We examine a number of significant texts, with a particular emphasis on their literary and cultural environment, together with key theoretical debates. There is a strong emphasis on contemporary shifts and emerging trends in the field since 2000. Key texts: Alan Paton: Cry, the beloved Country; J.M.Coetzee: Life and Times of Michael K; Redi Thlabi: Endings and Beginnings; Lauren Beukes: Moxyland.   

Term 4: Perspectives from the Global South

This part of the module enters local and global conversations from an ecological, species and gender-refracted vantage point. The texts studied review debates on intimate relationships, and between persons and the natural world within both a national and international context, and are sensitive to cultural specificities and global wealth flows. There is a strong continental African focus, with a widening towards modulations within the broader global south. Key texts: Aboulela, The Translator; Shoneyin, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Maathai, Unbowed: One Woman’s Story; Ghosh, The Hungry Tide. 

This course is not open to students who have completed ENG717 at UWC.


ENG819 Digital Cultures

The course introduces students to emerging trends in contemporary cyber culture, and the multiple ways in which information can be produced and disseminated on various digital platforms. Apart from constructing a personal web space and working together to create an online campus magazine, students will explore multimodal forms of digital storytelling that integrate textual, voice, visual and music content. Students will be expected to be continual and voracious consumers of media, including online and paper newspapers.

NB: Students need to have use of a digital camera or good quality cellphone or tablet. 


Mini-thesis (ENG 803)

The minithesis is 20-40,000 words long (excluding bibliography) and limited in scope. Students will work with a promoter and supervisor who will advise them on the thesis proposal and on the thesis itself. We encourage students to focus on a personally meaningful, feasible topic towards the lower end of the permissible word length.


Course Weighting

The course work counts for 50% of the total mark, the mini-dissertation for the remaining 50%. 


Eligibility and Access

To be considered for admission into the MA programmes, applicants should have obtained at least 65% for English Honours or a closely cognate subject at a university. They must submit the completed the online application form to the Arts Faculty and provide the Department with a certified copy of their academic results. We may also require graded copies of assignments and theses from previous courses, and arrange an interview.


Applicants from outside South Africa

If you obtained the degree or which forms the basis of your application from a non-South African university, you must apply to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). SAQA will provide you with an officially recognised assessment of your degree’s equivalent in the SA higher education system. You are welcome to apply to UWC once that process has started, but the English Department can only decide on your application when it has received the assessment. Contact SAQA at http://www.saqa.org.za; ph 012 431 5070.

In some cases the conveners may require applicants to demonstrate their academic and language competency at a level appropriate to the demands of this degree.


For further details, including advice on combinations and a reading list for African Fictions and Theories, contact Dr Roger Field: rfield@uwc.ac.za.​

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