ENGL 2103 - Haunted Histories: South African Writing

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2014

The ghost of the past looms over our present, bringing into focus questions about the relation between politics on the one hand and personal values (ethical, aesthetic) on the other. With its richly textured culture, South Africa is blessed by a set of 'other' presences, but it is also often haunted by feelings of alienation and even self-strangeness. These call for a more complex understanding of such apparently simple matters as personal freedom and responsibility. In its early explorer narratives and other historical records, its short stories, poems, and novels, South African writing engages with power and its after-effects in colonialism and apartheid, in the struggle against apartheid, and in the democratic present. Through reading a variety of short texts in the Course Reader, we will first develop an understanding of South African history, including literary history, and some of the key issues in South African literary studies. Then we will read in depth two internationally acclaimed and politically bold novels (Nadine Gordimer's The Conservationist, and Zoe Wicomb's Playing in the Light), investigating the ways in which they capture the reverberations in the present of the country's fraught past. Hauntedness is a current `hot topic' in literary studies, sometimes as `hauntology', and students will have the opportunity to undertake original research, if they wish. (While the course does not directly address Australian literature and history, the Australian parallels are obvious. It will be a welcome development if, after completing this course, students will go on to explore the notion of hauntedness in Australian literature, and other parallels between the two countries' literatures.)

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code ENGL 2103
    Course Haunted Histories: South African Writing
    Coordinating Unit English and Creative Writing
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact 3 hours per week
    Prerequisites 12 units of Level I study
    Assumed Knowledge Familiarity with the reading and analysis of literary texts equivalent to Level 1 English standard
    Course Description The ghost of the past looms over our present, bringing into focus questions about the relation between politics on the one hand and personal values (ethical, aesthetic) on the other. With its richly textured culture, South Africa is blessed by a set of 'other' presences, but it is also often haunted by feelings of alienation and even self-strangeness. These call for a more complex understanding of such apparently simple matters as personal freedom and responsibility. In its early explorer narratives and other historical records, its short stories, poems, and novels, South African writing engages with power and its after-effects in colonialism and apartheid, in the struggle against apartheid, and in the democratic present. Through reading a variety of short texts in the Course Reader, we will first develop an understanding of South African history, including literary history, and some of the key issues in South African literary studies. Then we will read in depth two internationally acclaimed and politically bold novels (Nadine Gordimer's The Conservationist, and Zoe Wicomb's Playing in the Light), investigating the ways in which they capture the reverberations in the present of the country's fraught past. Hauntedness is a current `hot topic' in literary studies, sometimes as `hauntology', and students will have the opportunity to undertake original research, if they wish. (While the course does not directly address Australian literature and history, the Australian parallels are obvious. It will be a welcome development if, after completing this course, students will go on to explore the notion of hauntedness in Australian literature, and other parallels between the two countries' literatures.)
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Dorothy Driver

    Dorothy Driver
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students will be able to

    1.  speak and write about the literature of a particular time and place, by addressing the pressures placed on acts of writing by the historical, political and cultural context.
    2. grasp and discuss the idiosyncrasies of the writer’s creative engagement with the historical, political and cultural context.
    3. have developed oral and written analytic and critical skills through the contextualised discussion of a generic range of texts, and the close reading and in-depth discussion of two dense and stimulating novels.
    4. have developed research skills and capacity to formulate and articulate fresh argument.
    5. have developed capacity to evaluate the work of their peers with critical detachment and tact.
    6. engage in provocative, productive and respectful discussion with their peers.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1,2,3,4,5,6
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 1,2,3,4
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 4,5,6
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 5,6
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 1,2,3,4,5,6
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1,2,3,4,5,6
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 1,2,3,4,5,6
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    A Course Reader will be available through Image and Copy. Set texts will be:
    Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist, and Zoë Wicomb’s Playing in the Light.
    Recommended Resources

    A Recommended Reading List and an Essay Writing Guide will be provided to students.
    Online Learning

    Recorded lectures will be available through MyUni.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    Weekly lectures will introduce students to the key aesthetic, historical and political issues relating to the texts under discussion for that week.
    Seminars will be devoted to in-depth discussion of the topics raised in the lectures and to close reading and discussion of the set texts with a view to students’ expanding on what has already been said.
    Weekly class presentations will involve small group work outside class, and in class will involve larger group work. They will serve as exemplary exercises, with students continually learning from one another.
    The weekly presentations and the summaries of three student-selected seminars (handed up at intervals during the semester) will identify problem areas in academic literacy and in the ability to read literature that can be remedied either in group discussion or individual consultation.
    The critical review of the Course Reader, handed up just after the end of week 4, will serve as an early identification of problems in academic literacies that can then be remedied through the teacher’s written commentary and, where necessary, individual consultation. Lectures and seminars will continually focus on the kinds of research that lead to significant critical findings, and the term essay will give students the opportunity to put their own research skills into practice.
    Workload

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.


    Student workload in this course will amount to the equivalent to 156 hours over the semester
    Learning Activities Summary

    Weeks 1-4: Course Reader: students will develop an understanding of South African history and politics, literary history, and the key issues in South African literary studies. Reading in different literary genres will introduce a range of interpretive practices, develop skills in critical analysis and literary-historical research, and prepare students for the specific kind of critical analysis demanded by fiction as opposed to non-fiction, the novel as opposed to the short story, etc..
    Weeks 5-10: Close and contextualised reading of two dense and internationally acclaimed novels will allow a more detailed (and very rewarding) focus on the entanglement of the aesthetic, the ethical and the political, and a more extended analysis of the manner and implications of the concept of ‘hauntedness’. that keeps raising its head in South Africa’s rich and fraught multicultural context.
    Weeks 11 and 12: Return to the concept of ‘hauntedness’ in the texts in the Course Reader, and a considered summary of the usefulness of the concept overall.
    The chronological structure of the course (both in the four-week section and the six-week section) will allow the gradual development of student understanding of South African history and its relation to culture (in the first section) and of the changing entanglements of aesthetic, ethical and political concerns (in the latter section).
    Inquiring into the central issues of South Africa’s literary representation—inter alia, the negotiation of encounter and conflict in the context of settlement and displacement, the mythologies of land, modernity’s urban-rural distinctions, racial supremacies and resistance, gender and class contestations, and above all the complex generation of a notion of hauntedness in a literature so fundamentally concerned with, and desirous of escape from, oppression and repression—will increase student knowledge of a particular national literary history and open up possibilities of comparison with other national literary histories, and particularly of Australian history, and may encourage graduate work in a comparative field worth developing.
    Specific Course Requirements
     seminar attendance is expected
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    Assessment: participation (includes 1 class presentation equivalent 350 words) 10%, 1000 word course reader review (20%), 3 x 350 word seminar summaries (20%), 2000 word research essay (50%).


    Assessment Related Requirements
    To be announced. 
    Assessment Detail
    Rationale for assessment: Assessment tasks are designed to measure the course objectives of a) developing students’ knowledge of how to speak and write about the literature of a particular time and place, b) increasing their oral and written analytic and critical skills through close reading and in-depth discussion of relevant texts, and c) enabling them to produce an independent research essay. As part of their class participation, each student is expected to make an oral presentation to the seminar group on a selected topic, including posing questions designed to generate group discussion of the topic. In advance of the relevant class, students will circulate these draft presentations to a small peer group and will use their responses to revise the presentation for delivery in class. (Groups will be pre-arranged, the size of each group and the number of groups each student being involved in depending on class size.) This part of the assessment will be both formative and summative and relates to Course Learning Objectives 1,2,3,4,5,6. Students will also be asked to review an aspect of the Course Reader (due soon after the end of week 4), and to write a brief report on three of the seminars (due the week after the relevant seminar). These assessments are seen as both formative and summative, and relate to Course Learning Objectives 1,2,3,4,5,6. Further summative assessment will take the form of a term essay to be handed in one week after the end of the course; this will enable students to display the fruits of what they have learnt in the lectures and seminar discussions and in their own reading and research, and will allow them to follow their individual interest. The term essay relates to Course Learning Objectives 1,2,3,4.
    Submission
    Submission through the Faculty Office, Level 7, Napier.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

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