Honours in English 2013

Programme co-ordinator: Dr. Neville Smith


  • Prof. Mary West
  • Dr. Neville Smith
  • Mrs. Vuyiswa Maqagi
  • Ms. Nancy Morkel



The following modules are on offer in English this year. You need to pass all FIVE modules in order to obtain your Honours Degree:

Currents of Thought in African Literature (LE422)

Lecturer – Vuyiswa Maqagi

A host of ideas and philosophies both from the West and form within Africa and her Diaspora have influenced African Literature in the 20th Century and beyond. Among these we will examine Marxist thought, colonial/postcolonial/postmodernist discourses, Western feminism and African womanism, orality and indigenous languages. We will also discuss Civil Rights and Black Consciousness in the Harlem Renaissance as they contributed to the growth of Negritude writings in French and Portuguese Africa. The module provides a background to a literary understanding of the works of African Literature and their production. The module will demonstrate through examples of texts from Africa some of the influences of these ideas in African Literature. The focus will be on the critical debates about influential ideas/theories and their implications on critical reading and evaluation of African Literature. This requires a certain amount of critical reading of multiple historical and social contexts which inform the texts we will study. Ultimately we need to answer the question: “Why study African Writing?”


Postmodernism and Literature (LE420)

Lecturer – Nancy Morkel

In this module students will engage with a range of texts that have been labelled ‘postmodernist’. Postmodern theory and deconstruction provide the necessary tools needed to negotiate contemporary literary production. In this course, you will be introduced to a number of inter-related theories that examine the metanarratives that construct our social and political realities. These include the grand narratives of Nation, Self and History. As Lyotard and Habermas have suggested postmodern society is “in the throes of a legitimation crisis” and the hegemony of Western versions of what is ‘real’ and what is ‘true’ have been exposed as fictions masquerading as ‘legitimate’ Universal Truths. The novels explored in this course have emerged as responses to the universalizing assumptions that have marginalized and oppressed others. The writers resist such claims to Truth by re–rewriting history, refusing the binary logic governing the relationship between fact and fiction, story and history, ‘magic’ and realism, etc. Postmodern theory intersects crucially with postcolonialism, feminism and Marxism, and has in effect become the catch-all concept for all the dissident and politically charged responses to the globalizing effects of liberal democracy and Western capitalist consumerism.


Gender and Writing (LE424)

Lecturer – Mary West

The material included in this module attempts to offer a genealogy of gender and its representations in literature. The texts have been chosen to reflect the extremities along the sex-gender continuum from woman-centred to man-centred, homophobic to homoerotic, in order to examine the socialisation of boys and girls in various societies, and in so doing, to explore social constructionist theories of gender versus those that maintain the binary logic of biological essentialism. Each of the texts is (at least partially but in most cases primarily) a study in masculinities or femininities and the ways in which these roles affect human interactions. All the works studied in this course have been composed within the last century and thus depict something of the gendered realities/fictions that have produced us. Whereas the politics of feminism may have dominated liberal intellectual debate concerning gender throughout much of the 20th Century, more recently, feminism has become an increasingly defensive politics that has had to negotiate and incorporate other peripheral responses, particularly from culturally marginalised non-western women, and from gender activists and theorists who insist that the gender roles available to all, despite sexual orientation, continue to mask the fluidity and instability of sex and gender. Furthermore, white heterosexual masculinity has announced itself in crisis, and ‘masculinity studies’ have become modish and, curiously, are competing for equality in what has been considered that discrete and largely marginal domain of ‘women’s studies.’ As is apparent, it is a debate that is dynamic and ongoing, and offering plenty in the way of new and exciting research.


Modernism & Literature (LE437)

Lecturer – Neville Smith

Emerging in France during the last quarter of the 19th century with movements such as Naturalism, Symbolism, Decadence and Aestheticism, early Modernist work began to appear in Britain, America and Africa from the 1890s and it remained an influential force right up until the Second World War. The Module aims to enhance the student’s appreciation and understanding of Modernist literature in Europe and Africa, to strengthen their understanding of key psychological, aesthetic, philosophical terms such as schizophrenia, alienation and develop their analysis of literary texts from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The influential writings of key figures such as Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx made a notable impact on the period. We will explore the experimental nature of Modernist literature, its tendency to lack traditional chronological narrative, break narrative frames or move from one level of narrative to another without any warning through the words of a number of different narrators. Students also examine various techniques such as self-reflexivity and the stream of consciousness (focusing on a character's consciousness and subconscious) utilizing relevant critical theory.


Treatise (LE431)

This is a 35 to 45 page research essay (treatise) in a topic of the student's choice in the discipline of English literary studies (investigating texts not prescribed at undergraduate level). It is supervised by one of the members of the English sub-department and written across the academic year. Opportunities to present work-in-progress occur throughout the process. Students hand in the finished product after the November exams.

Final Date for Submission: Friday 29 November. If the treatise is not submitted on this date, it will not be sent to the external examiner until the following year, in which case candidates will have to re-register for LLE431 in 2014.


M.A. and D.LITT Degrees by Thesis

Students with a good Honours degree may apply for admission to a Masters degree by dissertation, depending on expertise and supervision available. For admission to study towards a doctoral degree a sound Masters dissertation is a prerequisite, depending also on the expertise and supervision available.

Contact information
Dr Neville Smith
Senior lecturer
Tel: 27 41 504 2026