Literary Studies in English

Departmental Research Seminars

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Literary Studies in English

Why you should study a Literary Studies in English Degree

There are compelling reasons to study English at Rhodes: the university is located in a region known for its diverse and rich literary-cultural traditions; the department enjoys an excellent reputation; the curriculum is responsive to students’ needs and interests; prescribed reading balances the traditional and the new, the local and the international; courses focus on the skills of careful analysis and contextual interpretation; postgraduate students are involved in teaching activities and research presentations; and the academic environment is supportive, pleasant and stimulating.

Literary Studies in English

But what do past students have to say?

"The department is comparatively small which fosters close relationships among students as well as between students and lecturers/tutors. This is undoubtedly the best part of studying English literature at Rhodes. The Department also has a comprehensive curriculum which gives students the chance to discover where their literary interests lie. I love the freedom students have to pursue their interests rather than being boxed into a set curriculum."

Literary Studies in English


The Department of Literary Studies in English at Rhodes seeks to develop critical and imaginative thought. The curriculum situates the study of individual works and authors within a general inquiry into cultural history and literary understanding, and exposes students to a variety of analytical orientations. Both in its teaching activities and research activities, the department is guided by the over-arching goals of social enrichment and justice. 

The department has a lively culture of learning pursued through lectures and small-group discussions, as well as through research seminars and colloquiums. It regularly hosts visiting academics and writers, and maintains strong links with cognate departments and institutes such as the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown.


While the undergraduate courses are wide-ranging, postgraduate courses and staff research focus on the fields of Early Modern to Romantic literature, World literature, and African literature.The core curriculum is also supplemented by various student activities, including the poetry collective, Cycle of Knowledge and the Honours year field trip to Olive Schreiner's sarcophagus on Buffelskop in Cradock. 

There are compelling reasons to study English at Rhodes: the university is located in a region known for its diverse and rich literary-cultural traditions; the department enjoys an excellent reputation; the curriculum is responsive to students’ needs and interests; prescribed reading balances the traditional and the new, the local and the international; courses focus on the skills of careful analysis and contextual interpretation; postgraduate students are involved in teaching activities and research presentations; and the academic environment is supportive, pleasant and stimulating.

Our courses cover a range of periods, genres and styles, from the early modern in England through to the global present, with a specific focus on Africa. Literature gives significance to human experience, providing a record of intense intellectual and emotional engagements with life. We teach students to analyse and understand the logic of literary meaning, to argue coherently and convincingly, and to write clearly. In addition, students encounter:

  • a curriculum that is responsive to their needs and interests;
  • prescribed works that balance the traditional and the new, the local and the foreign;
  • lectures that provide a systematic approach to the study of literary works;
  • tutorials that develop the skills of analysis and contextual interpretation;
  • postgraduate students who are involved in teaching;
  • a learning environment that is supportive and stimulating.          

We are housed in the middle of campus within walking distance of the main library and have a vibrant and diverse teaching and research community. A short history of the department is available . 

Course Materials

This section contains general material such as book lists, timetables and activities the department has planned for the academic year. For more specific course content, students are encouraged to join RUConnected and to enrol in their respective courses.

Undergraduate Courses 2023

Postgraduate Courses 2023


MA and PhD

The Department of Literary Studies in English for a better future

Literary Studies in English

Latest Books

Literary Studies in English

Academic Courses

Undergraduate Studies

English 1 is the introductory course to the three-year major in English and is semesterised into ENG 101 (which comprises two papers, “Introduction to Genre” and “South African Literature”) and ENG 102 (which comprises two papers, “Postcolonial Literature” and “The Sense of an Ending”). The course is designed to introduce students to the practice of literary studies, to the major literary forms and genres, and to some sense of literary period. It aims to provide a selection of both older and contemporary material, ranging from canonical English literature to postmodern and postcolonial works produced across the globe. The emphasis lies on works that will both engage students and encourage them to study further. The course seeks to provide students with the necessary reading and writing skills, to hone their ability to pay close attention to textual details, and to expose them to some of the key areas of focus within the discipline.


English 1 Course Guide 2023

Students who take English 2 will extend and consolidate the knowledge and skills acquired in English 1. The texts studied in English 2 are grouped into four papers offered in consecutive terms: Transnational Literature, Regionalism in English and South African Fiction, Romanticism and Revolution, and The Modernist Revolt. Designed around specific literary movements and/or periods, the course seeks to foster an understanding of the relationship between the text and its contexts of production. The papers are either six or seven weeks in length, depending on the term within which they fall. There are three lectures and one tutorial per week.


English 2 Course Guide 2023

In English 3, you will continue to build on the knowledge and skills acquired in English 1 and 2. As well as studying the set texts, you will be encouraged to develop a greater self-consciousness about your own practice as a reader and a writer.
This entails:

  • A sophisticated understanding of the conventions by which texts produce meaning, e.g. the conventions of literary realism.
  • An acquaintance with some of the major theories which inform the ways in which we read and interpret literature.
  • An appreciation of the historicity of meaning and of the acts of interpretation which produce it.
  • Increasingly independent enquiry, using a range of critical, historical, and theoretical material.

At third-year level, students choose their course of study from a number of options, amounting to four choices altogether: two core papers and two electives.


English 3 Course Guide 2023

Postgraduate Studies

The English Honours course covers a range of literary periods and genres, from nineteenth-century America to contemporary South Africa, from poetry and short stories to literary theory. The Honours degree is taken over one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study, and it can be combined with papers from other departments. Students choose five papers in total from several possible fields of study, one of which may be a long essay. Postgraduate studies in English are designed to meet individual student interests. The Honours degree is a requirement for entry into a Master’s degree in English. It is also recommended for entry into the Master’s degree in Creative Writing. Students who wish to proceed to a Master’s degree are strongly advised to choose at least two papers in the field in which they intend to specialise, and to apply for the option of writing a long essay. The Master’s degree by supervision is taken over two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study. 


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Admissions Procedures


MA and PHD Admissions Procedures



Workshop on Thesis Writing: 


8 February (09h00)

09h00–09h30: Presentation of topics

The idea, here, is that MA and PhD students in their first year of registration present one page on their proposed research areas. Each presentation will be followed by feedback and a brief discussion.


09h30–10h30: Proposing a thesis, synthesising data, and documenting sources

The purpose of this workshop is to advise you on the roles and duties of supervisors and students, and to help you prepare a thesis proposal. In addition, we shall discuss the collation of data and the documentation of sources. (The discussion of referencing will assume that you have familiarised yourself with the relevant sections of the style sheet for writers of MA and PhD theses, which is available on the Department’s webpage.)


Dates and Deadlines for Thesis Proposals:


Research proposals must be signed off by the student, the supervisor and HoD as compliant with departmental processes.

3 April (09h00): Submission of electronic copies of drafts of proposals to Mike Marais (

5 April (14h15): Proposal workshop (Presentation and discussion of preliminary thesis proposals).

19 April (09h00): Submission of penultimate draft of proposal to supervisor (for circulation amongst designated members of the Department).

11 May: Submission of final proposal to Higher Degrees Committee


The following are the dates on which the Humanities Higher Degrees Committee meets, and also those on which proposals should be submitted to Faculty:






Thurs, 09 February 2023

Fri, 24 February 2023


Tues, 28 March 2023

Tues, 11 April 2023


Thurs, 11 May 2023

Thurs, 25 May 2023


Thurs, 20 July 2023

Thurs, 03 August 2023


Thurs, 24 August 2023

Thurs, 07 Sept 2023


Wed, 11 October 2023

Wed, 25 October 2023


Please use the following guidelines when preparing the research proposal for submission:


  1. Please obtain the HHDC proposal template from your supervisor.  Once you have completed it, return it to your supervisor and thereafter the HoD for their signatures of approval.
  2. The proposal must be saved as either a .docx or a .pdf with the file name as follows: ‘student number, surname, HHDC degree’ (e.g. 14S1234 SITHOLE HHDC PHD.  Please also use this file name in the subject header. Do not scan it through; it must be the original Word .docx document using the HHDC proposal template.
  3. Please heed the following word counts: Masters: 1800 – 2000; PhD: 2800 – 3000.
  4. The word count excludes references and the cover/ethics page
  5. All proposals must indicate the number of words at the end of the text section prior to the references


Research Presentations:


In the course of the year, there will be two opportunities for all MA and PhD students to present fifteen-minute papers on their research to fellow students and members of staff.


17 May (14h15): (principally for students in their second or third year of registration).

16 August (14h15): (principally for students in their first year of registration).

Research Projects

Dr Lynda Gichanda Spencer has been awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to conduct research on urban connections in African popular imaginaries. This project includes funding for postdoctoral fellowships, postgraduate studies, conference organisation and attendance, and writers-in-residency. Dr Minesh Dass is vice-principal investigator on the project, and assists Dr Spencer in coordinating it.

 Dr Lynda Spencer and Dr Minesh Dass

The research is concerned with popular modes of representation and interpretation, and specifically with the ways in which local specificities and global imaginaries are articulated through popular genres.  It seeks to engage critically with various knowledge productions that are embedded in local cultural forms. These popular imaginaries  include, but are not limited to genre fiction such as Crime thrillers,  Science fiction, Speculative fiction, Fantasy fiction, Afro-Gothic, fiction, Chick-lit, and Romance Imprints, literary narratives of new  and "invisible" writers that otherwise go unrecognised but offer innovative cultural productions and new perspectives with which to see and understand contemporary society, new modes of African writing that are  finding expression through modern digital technology, and forms of  popular performance art such as stand-up comedy, music, film, popular media television, radio, magazines and graphic illustrations.


Sam Naidu has been awarded a Mellon Inclusive Professoriate grant (2017–2019), which has enabled her to develop a project that focuses on transnational subjectivities represented in literature of the African, Latin American and South Asian diasporas. Underpinned by foundational theories which view diaspora as a social category and transnationalism as a type of consciousness and mode of cultural production, the project’s impetus is to explore imaginary constructions of similar and differing transnational migrant experiences, and to determine the value of representations of hybrid and fluid transnational subjectivities in an increasingly globalised world. Underlying the project is the view that critical appreciation of such fictional representations contributes to a more holistic understanding of the experiences and exigencies of diasporas in broader social and cultural terms. 

The project examines literature produced in the African, Latin American and South Asian diasporic contexts, and utilises a comparative methodology to explore the writing of these diasporas in relation to one other. Ultimately, the intention is to compare and contrast various transnational texts in order to describe the complex and paradoxical experiences of diaspora in a world of increasing mobility and de-territorialism, which yet, in certain locations, also faces increased regulation or prohibition of migration.

This project, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is located in the Department of English Literature at Rhodes University, South Africa, and will run from 2017–2019.


Co-ordinator: Sam Naidu

Project Title: Intersecting Diasporas: A Comparative Study of Literature of the African, Latin American and South Asian Diasporas


Research Associate: Teresa Carrillo

Project Title: Watching Over Greater Mexico: The Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME) and the Limits of Extra-territorial Governance (Book Manuscript)

Teresa Carrillo is a Professor of Latina/Latino Studies in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. 


Post-Doctoral Fellow: Marzia Milazzo

Project Title: Colorblind Tools: Narrating Racial Power in the Americas and South Africa (Book Manuscript)


Post-Doctoral Fellow: Andrea Thorpe

Project Title: Diasporic Subjectivities in South African Writing


PhD Candidate: Carol Leff

Project Title: The Afropolitan Flâneur: Literary Representations of the City and Contemporary Urban Identities in Selected African and Transnational Texts


PhD Candidate: Sean James Bosman

Project Title: The Ex-Centric Subject in Changing Discourses of Nationalism: Representations of Alienation, Exclusion in Selected South Asian, Latin American, and African Diasporic Fiction

Literary Studies in English