Honours ( English)

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Welcome to the English Honours webpage! The English Honours degree is a rigorous, versatile, marketable and internationally recognized programme that teaches you both writing and analytical skills. Typically, our graduates can be found in professions such as publishing, editing, teaching, lecturing, consulting, web design, screen writing, creative writing, journalism, marketing and copy writing.

Our aim in designing this programme has been to create a year of study that is topical, interesting, scholarly and progressive.  The programme is designed around a central core, comprising disciplines that we consider to be essential components of an English Honours programme in twenty-first-century century South Africa: Literary theory and South African/Shakespearean literature.  Around this core is clustered a variety of modules that reflect staff interest and expertise, as well as current issues in our discipline.

English Honours is an intensive programme in which we expect of our students nothing but their best.  This is a programme of saturation: you will be immersed in your subject, and at times you may find this quite demanding.  The best advice we can offer is that you keep to your deadlines and read well ahead in preparation for your seminars. It is also imperative that you strive continually to improve your writing and analytical skills, as you will be expected to demonstrate, in your essays and exams, excellence in terms of insight and expression.

Please contact the departmental administrator, Mrs Nicole Moore (nicolem@uj.ac.za), concerning all queries with regard to entrance requirements, class attendance, the syllabus, the assignments and examinations, and any other matter related to programme administration, and she will direct your query to the current programme co-ordinator. The English Department is located in the B block of the Auckland Park, Kingsway Campus, on the 7th level.


What follows is a brief indication of the structure of the Honours programme, and its component modules.

The English Honours programme comprises 5 papers. Four of these papers involve coursework and examinations. Paper 5 is a research essay (discussed below). Each paper comprises a number of modules. The structure of the Honours programme is as follows:

Monday. 12.00 – 3:00Thursday 9:00 – 12.00
 Semester 1

 ENG 3307

Grammar and Style / Lit. Theory

 Term 1:
Intro / Grammar and Style
Lit. Theory
Term 2:
Lit. Theory

(14 seminars)

Semester 1

ENG 3407

South African Literature/Shakespeare

Term 1:
South African Literary Studies.
Term 2:

(14 seminars)

Semester 2

ENG 3107

British and American Literature


Term 3:
Option A*                                                     (6)
Term 4:
Option B*                                                     (5)
Semester 2

ENG 3207

Colonial and Postcolonial literature


Term 3:
Option C*                                                      (6)
Term 4:
Option D*                                                      (6)

* topics to be determined early in Term 1

All seminars will take place in B Ring 715, unless alternative arrangements are made. Full-time students, intending to complete the Honours degree in one year, enrol for all 4 coursework papers plus the research essay. Part-time students, intending to complete the programme over two years, enrol for ENG3407 and ENG3207, or ENG3307 and ENG3107. Part-time students should spread work on the research essay over both years.


Mondays (12:00- 3:00)

Wednesdays (09:00 – 12:00): subject to your tutor’s confirmation.

Thursdays (09:00 – 12:00)

Thursdays (12:00 – 13:00): subject to your tutor’s confirmation.

In addition, the English Department holds a departmental research seminar from time to time, usually on a Thursday morning after the Honours seminar, at which staff, MA and PhD students, and visiting scholars present their current research.  Honours students are encouraged, and in some cases, required, to attend these sessions.


The requirement for Paper 5 (ENG0617) involves researching towards, and writing, a research essay of approximately 15 000 words. In consultation (in the first instance) with the programme co-ordinator, students will create their own research topic, not necessarily pertaining to any of the modules offered in the programme. The purpose of this module is the acquisition of skills required for the construction and development of a research topic.  You will gain experience in writing a research proposal, conducting a literature review, establishing a clear method, pursuing a logical critical argument, and composing an article-length essay that adheres to all the scholarly requirements particular to the discipline of English.  The module provides you with invaluable experience should you wish to progress to the MA level. Research topics studied at Honours level may be continued in an MA dissertation.

The Department of English encourages free-thinking, bold and enterprising work for the research essay. However, it is in your best interests to choose a topic within the field of specialization covered in the Department of English.  A list of these interests will be provided to you at the beginning of the year.

Some of the honours options offered by members of the English dept:


The Master (British and American Literature)

This module offers students an opportunity to study in depth and at length the work of (and about) a single author, Henry James. An extraordinarily accomplished and subtle writer, James is one of the most significant writers to emerge from the pre-Modernist period, and is arguably one of the most respected novelists in English Letters. Known affectionately and sometimes ironically by his peers as ‘The Master’, James might be regarded as ‘a writer’s writer’, and his life and writing have inspired a series of excellent contemporary novels. In this module, we will study a small selection of James’s finest work, then move to a study of novels, written in the 21st century, that have at their centre the figure of James as a character. In the course of such a study, students will be asked to think about the negotiations of truth and fiction that characterize the genre of author-centric biofiction, a well as what such a genre tells us of “The author” and mastery. Texts that might be studied in such a module include:

By Henry James:

Selected short stories

The Portrait of a Lady

The Ambassadors


By writers about James:

Felony:The Private History of the Aspern Papers, by Emma Tennant

The Master, by Colm Toíbín

The Typewriter’s Tale by Michiel Heyns

Author, Author: A Novel by David Lodge

‘The Year of Henry James’ by David Lodge

Dictation, by Cynthia Ozick


About ‘The Author’

‘The Death of the Author’ by Roland Barthes

The Author by Andrew Bennett

Middlemarch and The Portrait of a Lady

This module presents students with the opportunity to study, in depth, two towering figures of the 19th and 20th centuries, George Eliot and Henry James. What are arguably their greatest achievements, Middlemarch and The Portrait of a Lady, represent in many ways the concerns, both literary and historical, of high and late Victorianism, and early Modernism.  In this module, students will be given the opportunity to study the finer details of the texts themselves, as well as the conditions of their production and the critical industry that has grown around them. The novels speak to one another in intriguing ways, James writing both under and against the influence of Eliot.

Both novels are concerned with similar topics: the fate of strong women who make what many (other characters and numerous critics) regard as compromised marriages; thus, each novel is concerned with what some critics term “the marriage plot” – and the outcome of the protagonist’s  struggle to deal with the choices they have made.

In another late nineteenth-century innovation, the interior lives – or psychological development – of Dorothea Brooke (Middlemarch) and Isabel Archer (Portrait) are set against the exterior world of politics and current events. Issues of culture, class and gender receive differing degrees of attention at the hands of each author. Both novels may be seen to be working within, as well as testing, the limits and possibilities of representation and narrative technique.

By way of contrast to a survey module in which several works are studied, this one encourages slow reading and close attention to detail.  It makes an ideal introduction to the material that will be taught in the compulsory half-module on Virginia Woolf in term 4. The links between these two late Victorians and Woolf went beyond Woolf’s father, Leslie Stephen’s biography of Eliot and his friendship with James! As a writer and critic, Woolf admired both Eliot and James greatly, regarding both as her literary ‘ancestors’:

Apart from calling Middlemarch “… one of the few English novels written for grown-up people” (1919), Woolf drew a link between the two novelists in 1934 when discussing the use of dialogue in fiction:

I think the great Victorians … Dickens, Trollope, to some extent Hardy all had this sense of an audience and created their characters mainly through dialogue. Then I think the novelist became aware of something that can’t be said by the character himself; and also lost the sense of an audience … . Middlemarch I should say is the transition novel: Mr. Brooke done directly by dialogue: Dorothea indirectly. Hence its great interest – the first modern novel. Henry James of course receded further and further from the spoken word, and finally I think only used dialogue when he wanted a very high light.

[1] Virginia Woolf. [1919]. “George Eliot”. In Collected Essays. London: The Hogarth Press, 1953, p. 201.Virginia Woolf  to George Rylands, 27 Sep 1934. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautman (eds). The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Volume 5: 1932-1935. London & NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp. 334-35.


Medieval Studies

Who has not, at some time, been enchanted by the timeless stories of the noble King Arthur, the beautiful Queen Guenevere, the valiant Sir Lancelot and the mysterious magician Merlin?  And who can fail to be entertained by the contrasting world created by Chaucer of lecherous students, buxom country wenches, roguish churchmen, and desperate but hopeless lovers?

This module explores the language, concerns, ideas, ideologies and some of the literary styles and techniques of the high Middle Ages (1380–1470).  Its overall aims are to foster an appreciation of the unique qualities of medieval thought and literature, and to provide students with an understanding of the beginnings of modern English literature.

We begin with the final Book of Sir Thomas Malory’s Arthurian classic Morte Darthur (‘The Death of Arthur’) to consider Malory’s vision of the conflicting demands that love, duty, loyalty, fidelity and honour can place on individuals and society as a whole.
We then turn to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to look at two strongly contrasting representations of love and its follies: the lofty, philosophical Knight’s Tale and the earthy Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale with its passionate rejection of patriarchal attitudes to women.We will take time to read and enjoy this literature, as well as to study it in detail, so as to become familiar with idioms, concepts and styles of writing that the passage of time has made less familiar to us.  In so doing, we will be discovering a world different from – yet very similar to – our own, in which writers wrestled imaginatively with difficult issues, emotions and experiences that are the common lot of individuals and societies to this day.


Sir Thomas Malory, The Morte Darthur

Geoffrey Chaucer: The Knight’s TaleThe Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale

The fantastic and the utopian in SF: ironically constructing subjectivity

A common perception of science fiction (SF) is that it consists of unproductive texts that fail to offer incisive commentary on the social conditions of existence. Such a perception is largely a result of the singular function of utopia in SF, and the ways in which the utopian continually seems to give rise to the very same fantastical context that it contesting. SF is habitually associated with the utopian, and by extension then also with the fantastical, which presents a causal structure of either/or logic in which predetermined definitions of the subject matter restrict the construction of the individual subject. Whether it envisages the creation of an ideal or forewarns of the apocalyptic, the utopian is teleological; therefore the subject (both the individual and the subject matter) has no choice but to be what has already been decided for it to be. In the case of many an SF text, this means that the subject has no choice but to be the hero, an untenable position that, perversely, continually thwarts the formation of subjectivity.

In this course we will address the ways in which SF uses irony to repurpose utopia’s fixation with ends, a process which effectively promotes the liberation of the subject (matter). Irony allows for the continual re-construction of subjectivity, insofar as it offers a both/and kind of logic that deconstructs the authority of predetermined definitions. This breach allows room for the suspension of choice, so that the individual can abjure a single subjectivity in favour of a multiplicity of subject positions. In other words, the definition of the term ‘hero’ is now always open to negotiation. We will be tracing such deconstructive trajectories in two SF novels by Iain M. Banks, namely The Player of Games, and Use of Weapons.

Suggested structure of module:

Seminar 1:

Explaining the play of the fantastic in SF.

Fantasy, or Science Fiction?

Seminar 2:

Utopia and Utopian programmes in SF.

A means to an end: irony in Star Wars.

Seminar 3:

The Player of Games: hero or dupe?

Opening a space between a strategy of ends and one of closure.

Seminar 4:

The Player of Games


Seminar 5:

Use of Weapons: morality and the mercenary hero.

The endless play of the signifier at the circular limit of the interior.

Seminar 6:


Preliminary source list:

Armitt, L. 1996. Theorising the fantastic. London: Arnold.

Banks, Iain M. 1988. The Player of Games. London: Orbit.

— 1992. Use of Weapons. London: Orbit.

Barthes, Roland. (1977). Inaugural Lecture, Collège de France In: Sontag,

Susan (Ed.). (2000). A Roland Barthes Reader. London: Vintage, pp. 457-478.

Benjamin, Andrew. 2006. Deconstruction In: Malpas, Simon and Wake, Paul. 2006. The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory.Abingdon: Routledge.

Brown, Carolyn. (1996). Utopias and Heterotopias: The ‘Culture’ of Iain M.

Banks In: Littlewood, Derek & Stockwell, Peter (Eds.). (1996). Impossibility Fiction:Alternativity-Extrapolation-Speculation.Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp.57-74.

Colebrook, Claire. (2004). Irony. London: Routledge.

Jameson, Frederic. 2005. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London: Verso.

Freedman, C. 2000. Critical Theory and Science Fiction. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.

Gunn, J. & Candelaria, M. 2005. Speculations on Speculation – Theories of Science Fiction. Lanham: Scarecrow.

Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London: Routledge.

Luckhurst, Roger.  1991. Border Policing: Postmodernism and Science Fiction. Science fiction Studies 18(3): 1-7. Available from:

http://www.depauw.edu/SF/backissue/55/luckhurst55art.htm. [Accessed: 80/09/08].


Locating meaning in randomness: retrospective interpretation in David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas

English novelist David Mitchell’s debut novel, Ghostwritten, was published in 1999 to wide acclaim: it was awarded the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize, and the distinguished English author  A.S. Byatt declared it one of the best first novels she had read (Begley, 2010: 1). The novel is written episodically, each of the nine chapters detailing a different story and central character, although they are all interlinked through seemingly coincidental events. As such, the text is formally complex, making use of a broad range of stylistic techniques in its attempt to, as Mitchell himself puts it, ‘locate meaning in randomness. It’s an essay in fiction about causality […] Each chapter offers a different reason why its events unfold as they do’ (in Begley, 2010: 5). This manifold structure compels a reader to continually shift perspective, in a way that eventually approximates the process of reading itself. One could argue, in other words, that “the reader” is continually reinvented, in the text as well as in the community that first brought forth this reader.

Mitchell’s third novel, Cloud Atlas (2004), won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award and was short-listed for the 2004 Booker PrizeNebula AwardArthur C. Clarke Award, amongst others. It also forms the base of the film Cloud Atlas, released in 2012. This novel expands on the techniques employed in Ghostwritten in that it consists of six nested stories; each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or observed) by the main character in the next. All stories but the last are interrupted at some moment, and after the sixth story concludes at the centre of the book, the novel goes back in time to consecutively “close” each story. Eventually, readers end up where they started, with Adam Ewing in the Pacific Ocean, circa 1850. This structure illustrates the way in which reading, apart from being a continual reinvention, is also a constant retrospective, not only of the elements that make up the text, but also of the characteristics that apparently define “the” reader.

Suggested structure of module:

Seminar 1:

An introduction to theories of reading and interpretation.

Seminar 2:

A close reading of Ghostwritten.

Seminar 3:

The reader constantly reinvented in Ghostwritten.

Seminar 4:

A close reading of Cloud Atlas.

Seminar 5:

Reading retrospectively.

Seminar 6:


Preliminary source list:

Alsop, Derek & Walsh, Chris. (1999). The Practice of Reading: Interpreting the Novel. Houndmills: Macmillan Press Ltd.

Bass, Alan. (2006). Interpretation and Difference. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Blanchot, Maurice. (1982). The Space of Literature (trans. Ann Smock).Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Culler, Jonathan. (1981). The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, literature, deconstruction. London: Routledge.

Mitchell, David. (1999). Ghostwritten. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

Mitchell, David. (2004). Cloud Atlas. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.


Modernism and T.S. Eliot

‘Modernism’ has become a familiar term in the last decades. It is common knowledge that [the term] summarises artistic tendencies from roughly the turn of the century until the Second World War. The products of these tendencies are characterised by abstraction, obscurity and a multiplicity of perspectives […] In terms of literature, unexplained allusions, obscure and often ‘non-literary’ language and the disintegration of coherent narratives and settings into startling and apparently unrelated images are considered reliable indicators [of a modernist text]” (Emig, 1995:1)

Emig’s description of Modernism implies some sort of historical discontinuity, a liberation from inherited patterns that nonetheless points to a simultaneous deprivation and disinheritance – being set free, but also broken off from the values of the past. This is the duality that, more than anything else perhaps, distinguishes T. S. Eliot’s aesthetic. This course traces the Modernist characteristics of Eliot’s poetics, and how these operate in his early works. The Wastelandin particular is continually structured along the dual lines of metaphorical condensation and metonymic displacement, so that its primary preoccupation remains the dissolution of meaning.


Proposed structure of module:

Week 1: Introduction to Modernism

Week 2: “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

Week 3: The Wasteland: “The Burial of the Dead

Week 4: The Wasteland: “A Game of Chess”

Week 5: The Wasteland: “The Fire Sermon” and “Death by Water”

Week 6: The Wasteland: “What the Thunder Said”


Preliminary source list:

Abrams, M.H. 1993. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Fort Worth: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, Inc.

Coote, Stephen. 1993. The Penguin History of English Literature. London: Penguin Books.

Davis, Robert Con. 1986. Contemporary Literary Criticism. New York: Longman.

Davis, Robert Con, & Finke, Laurie. 1989. Literary Criticism and Theory. New York: Longman.

Eliot, T.S. 1989. “Tradition and the Individual Talent”. In: Davis, Robert Con, & Finke, Laurie. 1989. Literary Criticism and Theory. New York: Longman, pp. 587-593.

Emig, Rainer. 1995. Modernism in Poetry: Motivations, Structures and Limits. New York: Longman.

Harwood, John. 1995. Eliot to Derrida: The Poverty of Interpretation. London:    Macmillan.

Hinchliffe, Arnold P. 1987. The Waste Land and Ash Wednesday. London:     Macmillan.

Miller, James E. 1977. T. S. Eliot’s Personal Waste Land: Exorcism of the Demons. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Potter, Alex. 1987. The Context of Literature written in English. Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman.

Richards, I.A. 1989. Principles of Literary Criticism. London: Routledge.

Southam, B.C. 1981. A Student’s Guide to the Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot. London: Faber & Faber.


Love and Death in Renaissance Poetry

In Death , Desire and Loss in Western Culture (2001), Jonathan Dollimore conducts an impressive study of a longstanding theme in Western thought and culture, namely, the intersection of desire and death. This is an intersection that Philippe Ariès, in Western Attitudes Toward Death (1974), says begins to take shape at the end of the 15th century, when “we see the themes concerning death begin to take on an erotic meaning” (56).  The aim of this paper is to consider some of the consequences of Dollimore’s and Ariès’s research, and other research on desire and death in Western thought and culture, for the study of love and death in Renaissance poetry. We look at the sonnets of William Shakespeare and selections from Metaphysical and Jacobean poetry, in particular the poetry of Ben Jonson, John Donne and Andrew Marvell, in their historical and cultural contexts.

Among other secondary texts, the following will make up the core of the reading list:

1. Ariès, Philippe. The Hour of Our Death. New York: Oxford UP, 1981.

2.Dollimore, Jonathan. Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture. London: Routledge, 2001.


Film and Modernism

Virtually every branch of the arts was influenced by the modernist movement. And film counts among the arts that responded to what Renate Holub calls “the transformation of twentieth-century reality towards ever increasing processes of rationalisation and bureaucratisation . . . marked by the evolution of a culture industry which, particularly since World War ll, is engaged in the production and reproduction of a mass culture needed for mass consumption” (173-4). This paper looks at two films, i.e. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò or 120 Days of Sodom (1975) and Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), against the background of the evolution of the culture industry and its corollary, i.e. mass consumer culture.

Among other secondary texts, the following will make up the core of the reading list:

1.Gay, Peter. Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond. London: Vintage, 2009.

  1. Jameson, Fredric. The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1992.

3.Jameson, Fredric. Signatures of the Visible. London: Routledge, 1992.



Option 1

Contemporary Australian Fiction

A number of similarities exist between South Africa and Australia: climate, latitude, arid interior regions, and a colonial history that has had fraught and complex political consequences. There are also a number of differences; for example, Australia’s history as a penal colony, its small indigenous population, and its present status as a developed, first-world nation. While focusing on a number of contemporary Australian texts that reflect a context in some ways like our own and in others vastly different, we will ask the following questions: How do some of these texts critically engage with the past, in particular Australia’s history as a penal colony and the atrocious legacy of the near-destruction and subsequent mistreatment of the Aboriginal peoples? How do others approach the banality of life in predominantly white, middle-class, contemporary Australia? Are these texts in any way transcultural; do they resemble postcolonialism as we know it? And, perhaps most importantly, how do they revel in their own unique literariness? Throughout the course we will endeavour to maintain a focus on a number of general themes in addition to those particular to each author: language, landscape and history.

Flanagan, Richard. Gould’s Book of Fish.

Winton, Tim. Cloudstreet.

Malouf, David. Every Move You Make.

Tsiolkas, Christos. The Slap.

Rewriting South African Masculinities

This module considers how masculinities are represented, constructed, and performed in several recent South African texts. Focusing on a number of novels, a memoir, and a film from the last decade, the module encourages students to consider how variable performances of masculinity impact on post-apartheid literary culture. We examine the way in which gender intersects with race, class, and sexuality in the construction of identities and in the (re)writing of history. We use masculinity as a lens through which to examine the shifting historical discourses of nationalism, cultural ideology, sexuality politics, and the raciology of post-apartheid South Africa.

Proposed Texts:

Room 207, by Kgebetli Moele

The Quiet Violence of Dreams, by K. Sello Duiker

Kings of the Water, by Mark Behr

Bitter Fruit, by Achmat Dangor

Young Blood, by Sifiso Mzobe

In a Different Time, by Peter Harris

Changing Men in Southern Africa (collection of essays), edited by Robert Morrell

Skoonheid (film), directed by Oliver Hermanus

Narratives of Inter-African Migration

Migratory movements from countries of the global South to the North and literary accounts thereof have dominated much of African and postcolonial scholarship in recent decades. In this course we will follow the growing number of scholars interested in shifting the long-standing emphasis on the centre-periphery dualism to the examination of South-South relations by studying narratives of inter-African migration from the1960s to the present. Reading these texts, we will discuss how they renegotiate common questions of national belonging, indigeneity, transnationalism and Afropolitanism in the context of intra-continental relations.

In the first half of the semester we will look at a number of African writers thematising trans-border lives and conflicts in their works published in the immediate post-independence era. Our main focus will be on the ways in which these novels at once critique and reimagine the politics of nationhood and continental unity in postcolonial Africa. We will consider perspectives on Pan-Africanism emerging from these fictions against the background of extracts from texts by some of the key Pan-Africanist thinkers.

We will then examine more recent literary works that have engaged with inter-African migration. These works have particularly emerged in South Africa as the country has become an attractive destination for economic migrants and refugees from elsewhere on the continent with the ever-growing fortification of borders around Western nations. How do these texts imagine Africa in comparison to the earlier fictions of cross-continental migration? Analysing in detail a selection of works by both South African authors and migrant writers, we will also place these texts in dialogue with recent theoretical debates in South African literary culture in the post-2000 era and relate these to the wider field of African literature.

Possible readings include:

Two Thousand Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah

Unexpected Joy at Dawn by Alex Agyei-Agyiri

The Wanderers by Es’kia Mphahlele

Welcome to Our Hillbrow by Phaswane Mpe

Bom Boy by Yewande Omotoso

“Discovering Home” by Binyavanga Wainaina

Additionally, the following films may also be discussed in class:

Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon by Khalo Matabane

Man on Ground by Akin Omotoso

Bildungsroman as a Strategy of Containment Selected Post-Apartheid Novels

Mhlongo’s Dog Eat Dog and After Tears, Duiker’s Thirteen Cents and The Quiet Violence of Dreams, and Sfiso Mzobe’s Young Blood.

The essence of bildungsroman can be taken as a literary form which arises out of a social crisis, when stable formulas of selfhood are challenged because the continuity between generations has been dismantled.

The youthful narrative consciousness is used to reflect the dynamism, instability, restlessness of a new age and dispensation. The bildungsroman deals with the contradiction and conflict between the ideal of self-determination and demands of socialisation. When the young can no longer look backwards to what came before or maturity as an unambiguous guideline or blue print. Its nature is an uncertain exploration of the social space. It negotiates and struggles between the personal identity and change. A fixed sense of identity and potentialities inherent in youth are explored as well the contradiction between maturity and perpetual youth. It is an exploration of indetermination and fluidity of possibilities and identities. It is an act of claiming self-fashioning. The heroes desperately want to be themselves against the prevailing dogma and orthodoxy that seek to restrict and confine them. Bildungsroman becomes a narrative vehicle through which social convention and tradition can be construed as unsatisfying, constraining and limiting.

The contradiction between fluidity of change and fixity of convention is handled, developed and resolved uniquely in each of the narratives.  The fluidity of change goes against convention, stability and socialisation.  This kind of a literary form needs to be understood historically in relation to its possibilities and limitations.

The individual experience and social totality is mediated by narrative patterns, expectations providing coherence and value to fluid existence. Individual quest for ideological anchor in a complex totality characterise the fate of the narratives protagonists. One way the narratives can resolve this dilemma is through an alignment of the protagonist’s subjective perspective with what he understands to be the essence of this social totality. A simplified social totality can be presented as based and controlled purely by the logic of materialism bereft of any of ethical and spiritual values. Another way the narratives can resolve the same dilemma is by the refusal to align the subjective experience to what is perceived to be idiosyncratic social totality.  The recognition of society as composed of multiplicity of forces, constituted by difference and discontinuities is can be clearly expressed by the narratives.

According to Fredric Jameson, totality is always beyond our grasp, always exceeding our knowledge and ultimately it is an attempt to represent the unrepresentable yet we must deal with the social impulse that seeks to know and represent it. The narratives are under the paradoxical mandate to represent this unrepresentable. The bafflement with the complexities of the social totality is reflected in these narratives. Conspiracy theories as a cognitive map through which the connection of subjective and intimate experience with impersonal and abstract social system is enabled. It exemplifies a quest for the protagonists to find meaning, place and fulfilment within the social totality. There is a widespread, desire to understand and orientate oneself in society through a collectively recognisable navigational aid in a complex and impersonal capitalist modernity. The bildungsroman in these narratives reflects the persistent and obsessive quest to find the essence and formula to understand a complex, baffling and at times perplexing social totality.


The aim of the module:

This module introduces students to the practice of academic text editing. The purpose is to provide them with an understanding of what goes into the editing of literary texts and to equip them with the skills to undertake some sample exercises in text editing.

The works of H C Bosman are used as a case study in the module in order to introduce students to the issues surrounding text editing. This kind of scholarship entails paying close attention to the various processes that go into the making of literary texts.

Prescribed texts*:

Oom Schalk Lourens stories:

——–. Mafeking Road and Other Stories. Cape Town: Human and Rousseau, 1998. (Anniversary Edition.)

——–. Seed-time and Harvest and Other Stories. Cape Town: Human and Rousseau, 2001. (Anniversary Edition.)

——–. Unto Dust and Other Stories. Cape Town: Human and Rousseau, 2002. (Anniversary Edition.)


——–. The Complete Oom Schalk Lourens Stories. Cape Town: Human and Rousseau, 2006.

Voorkamer stories:

——–. Idle Talk: Voorkamer Stories (I). Cape Town: Human and Rousseau, 1999. (Anniversary Edition.)

——–. Homecoming: Voorkamer Stories (II). Cape Town: Human and Rousseau, 2005. (Anniversary Edition.)


——–. The Complete Voorkamer Stories, with a Bushveld Portfolio by David Goldblatt. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, 2011.