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The state of literary studies in South Africa

When: Thursday, 19 September 2019 - Thursday, 19 September 2019
Where: Braamfontein Campus East
WiSER Seminar Room, 6th Floor, Richard Ward Building
Start time:11:30

Colette Gordon from the English Department at Wits will present this seminar hosted by the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER).

The seminar is based on paper that examines what can be gleaned from failure in the English literature classroom, a pattern of (mis)reading, observed both before and after #Feesmustfall, among students interpreting K Sello Duiker’s Thirteen Cents (2000). Against the conventional predictions of narratology and the bromide that reading fosters empathy, a surprising number of students applied a corrective reading, affirming the gas lighting narratives of the two characters (a thief and a pederast) who exemplify the author’s social critique, and attacking the narrator, who is blamed for maligning adult society. In the paper, Gordon tries to think through the many factors that might contribute to this form of dissonant reading, mapping factors specific to the South African context (generational, institutional), but also considering the wider failure of English departments to place misreading at the centre, not the periphery, of their work.

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