seminar

About a Mountain

About a Mountain

Fragments from a walking residency across the Cape Peninsula.

Three images from our walking residency, 6-12 December 2015. The first is the official prompt for this exercise (me and Meghna at Smitswinkel Camp). The second is one I asked Barry to take for me (a brass dial, or is it a toposcope, at Cape Point). The third (me giving a talk on Dias, Da Gama and the Khoikhoi in the shade of a windskerm at Buffels Bay) is one he sent me because I wanted photographic evidence of scholarly pursuits.

So, five quick impressions…

1)   The minimalist, slightly spartan décor of the camps. Slats of wood and stone; no cushions. Rigorous, good for reading and writing, not for reclining. The limited colour scheme, shrubs deformed by wind, a landscape always on the verge of mourning. Meghna and I both seem withdrawn, inward, even a little sombre. Why? Perhaps because we have both stayed here before, and we know about the tent flaps that will keep us awake all night, flapping in the permanent wind. Or perhaps we have already spent a night here, and have, like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, awoken from uneasy dreams…

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White Papers, Necessary Noises

White Papers, Necessary Noises

The Strange and Surprising Adventures of Jeremy Cronin.

Paper delivered at Craft Wars: Comparative Perspectives on Poetry '74 | University of Cape Town, 19 September 2014.

Jeremy Cronin, Deputy General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, MP and poet, describes reading his work to learners in 2007. From an interview with Andrew van der Vlies in Contemporary Literature, vol. 49 (2008):

Over several years now, at least one of my poems has been set in the national matriculation syllabus, and for some reason (perhaps because it is conveniently short), it often appears in the examination paper itself. So these school events involve a captive audience. I am not deluding myself that the majority of learners are present for the sheer love of poetry, or that, as I step into the venue, I have an extensive and passionate school readership; I try to respect these realities [. . .] Over the recent period there has been a certain predictability about these engagements. 

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27 False Starts

Listening to Moses Taiwa Molelekwa.

Ways of Writing: Creativity, Knowledge and Experimentation in the Academy.Africa, Reading, Humanities | English Department, University of Cape Town. Brenda Cooper, Lesley Green and Hedley Twidle in conversation | 5 August 2014.

The moment at which a piece of music begins provides a clue as to the nature of all art...the incongruity of that moment, compared to the uncounted, unperceived silence which preceded it.

John Berger

The Lives of Objects

10-throne-of-weapons_544Oxford Centre for Life Writing | 20 - 22 September 2013 | Archive and Public Culture gazette. ...Stories, like objects, have contours and patterns. And certain objects might allow us to tell stories that are shaped more irregularly and are more interestingly patterned than the vast, over-arching narratives we are often saddled with. As the objects circulated through the auditorium, he spoke evocatively of the ‘synapse’ of cultural energy that links an object with the place from which it has come...

See also: The Lives of Objects in the History of Cape TownMolo (Dec 2013).

“Jews are to history,” Philip Roth once wrote, “what Eskimos are to snow.” I have often thought that the remark could just as well apply to South Africans...

Don't say 'problematize'...

For it is only by knowing how to write that you can make use in literature of yourself; that self which, while it is essential to literature, is also its most dangerous antagonist.  Never to be yourself and yet always – that is the problem...

...We are nauseated by the sight of trivial personalities decomposing in the eternity of print.

Virginia Woolf, ‘The Modern Essay’ (1925).

UCT lecturer in English Hedley Twidle presents the work of his top three graduate students from a seminar he ran this year on writing professional review essays. In this, the first of a three-part feature, SLiPnet presents Twidle’s introductory thoughts on the review essay as a literary-critical form, followed by UCT graduate student Anneke Rautenbach’s review of Dana Snyman’s book, The Long Way Home.

What is a review? What is an essay? And what is a review essay?

We discussed these questions during a recent seminar on (so-called) literary non-fiction at the University of Cape Town. The idea was to explore more varied, public and perhaps more lucrative modes of writing about literature than the research “paper”, or end-of-term “assignment” – both rather insipid terms for the kind of pieces that Honours and Masters students are required to produce.

In bald economic terms, postgraduate study consists in paying someone to read your work (sometimes a couple of external examiners too) and there it ends. But what about getting paid, and so contributing to a wider dialogue, all without sacrificing intelligence, rigour and (if necessary) difficulty? And how much self can one insert into an essayistic response to a text before it becomes self-indulgent? [Continue reading...]

Unpacking whose library? Borrowing history in the postcolony

Paper presented at Silence in the Post-World: Literature, Culture and Reimagining of Geography - A One-Day Symposium| Freie Universität Berlin | Friday 15 June 2012. Abstract.

I am unpacking my library.  Yes, I am. Walter Benjamin.

…Today a memorial by Micha Ullman consisting of a glass plate set into the cobbles, giving a view of empty bookcases, commemorates the book burning. Furthermore, a line of Heinrich Heine is engraved, stating ‘Das war ein vorspiel nur wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen’ (‘Where they burn books, they ultimately burn people’). Students at Humboldt University hold a book sale in the square every year to mark the anniversary…

 Walter Benjamin's library card.

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The Chimurenga Library: An Introspective of Chimurenga Magazine  | Cape Town Central Library 21 May- 21 June 2009. http://www.chimurengalibrary.co.za/about.php

In Africa, when an old person dies, it is a library that burns.

Amadou Hampate Ba, UNESCO General Assembly, 1962.

[T]he boss of Credit Gone West doesn’t like ready-made phrases like ‘in Africa, when an old person dies, a library burns’, every time he hears that worn-out cliché he gets mad, he’ll say ‘depends which old person, don’t talk crap, I only trust what’s written down’…

Alain Mabanckou, Broken Glass, Serpent’s Tail, 2009.

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...Which is what I love - the critical intelligence in the imaginative position... (i) Reality Hunger (ii) A Piece of Monologue.

Rachel Carson and the Perils of Simplicity

Programme of events | Papers by Rob Nixon, Lesley Green, Julia Martin, Frank Matose, Andre Goodrich, Hedley Twidle.

What is the legacy of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring? The Eco-Audit with Leo Hickmann. Valuable drawing together of online responses to the 50th anniversary at The Guardian website.

You smiled when I suggested that medicine could ever be scientific, but one of the things I appreciate in you, and one of the things I mean by ‘scientific’, is your awareness of what is not known and your unwillingness to rush in with procedures that may disrupt that unknown but all-important ecology of the body cells.  I appreciate, too, your having enough respect for my mentality and emotional stability to discuss this all frankly with me.

Rachel Carson to her doctor George Crile in 1960.