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Modern Fiction

Modern Fiction 2017

Modern Fiction is an interdisciplinary course designed to augment and supplement the study of fiction dealt with in other literature courses at Rhodes. It also aims to provide a general cultural background to broaden the frame of reference of students registered for courses such as Journalism and Media Studies, Law, Political and International Studies, Sociology, Social Anthropology and History.

The course is devoted to a study of novels and short fiction (in English translation) written since the middle of the 19th century to the present day, by authors like Kafka, Mann, Borges and Mondiano. Works by authors from Africa, such as A.C. Jordan, Martin Steyn, Elbie Lötter and Ingrid Winterbach feature prominently, while Chinese literature is also now being introduced in the course, as well as a brand new film component.  The texts and authors covered may vary from year to year.

At a more general level, the course studies the characteristics of particular literary genres such as crime fiction, chick-lit and historical novels, while also providing a theoretical basis for the analysis of filmic and literary texts.

There are four periods per week, two being single periods and one double period to allow for film viewing. Lecturers are drawn largely from the Humanities Faculty at Rhodes.

The examination consists of one three-hour paper. Modern Fiction counts as a second-year credit towards a degree, and is open to students who have already obtained at least two credits. Candidates who have not obtained a credit in English II may, with the permission of the Head of the Department of English, proceed from Modern Fiction to English III.


Literature is a way of trying to make sense of the world.  In Modern Fiction, we analyse fiction and film and explore the link between literature, society and the Self.

Life is not always “pretty” and a book or film can often be cathartic.  One of the themes explored in this course is therefore Monsters and the Monstrous – from psychopaths, serial killers and child molesters to monstrous ideologies, literature is a representation of history, society and the self.

Themes of imprisonment (either physical, mental or by an oppressive system), memory, identity, alienation, absurdity, guilt, mental and physical transformation, conflict and compromise, modernity and tradition, decadence, decay and disintegration will be unraveled through various texts, whether translated from one language to another, or from one mode to another, such as from book to film.

Prescribed Texts‌

Patrick Modiano, The search warrant (Alfred A Knopf/Random House) (Claire Cordell)

Lu Xun, The real story of Ah-Q and other tales of China (Penguin Books) (Marius Vermaak)

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice and other stories (Vintage, Only Death in Venice and film) (Undine Weber)

Franz Kafka, In the penal colony and other stories (Scribner Paperback Fiction) (Only Metamorphosis and film) (Natasha Engelbrecht)

A.C. Jordan, The wrath of the ancestors (AD Donker Publishers) (Thulani Nxasana)

Nicholas Shakespeare, The Dancer Upstairs (film only) (book is in the library)

Dai Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Book and film)

Eben Venter, Trencherman (Translation of Horrelpoot)

Martin Steyn, Dark Traces (Publishing March 2017) (translation of Donker Spoor)

Karel Schoeman, Promised Land (Jason Xenopolous film only)

Ingrid Winterbach, To Hell with Cronjé (English translation of Niggie)

Albie Lotter, It’s me Anna (book) and Dis ek, Anna (film)

Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths (Penguin Books)

Last Modified: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:47:21 SAST

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