Professor Jane Poyner
I began my research career as a JM Coetzee scholar, and have published 3 books on his writing, as well as many articles and book chapters. My first book, J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual (Ohio UP, 2006), is an edited volume of essays by world-leading Coetzee scholars. This book won the prestigious 2007 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award of the American Library Association. The Swedish Academy lists this book on the Nobel Prize web pages for Coetzee, who won the Novel Prize in Literature in 2003. J. M. Coetzee and the Paradox of Postcolonial Authorship is my monograph on Coetzee (Ashgate, 2009). I have also co-edited Approaches to Teaching J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and Other Works, with Laura Wright and Elleke Boehmer, in the prestigious MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature Series (MLA, 2014). This book was nominated by the MLA, the most important Modern and contemporary literature association, for the 2015 biennial Teaching Literature Book Award (Idaho State University).
Broadening the scope of my research, my most recent book, The Worlding of the South African Novel: Spaces of Transition, was published in 2020 by Palgrave as part of its New Comparisons in World Literature series. This book includes analyses of work by South African writers like Zoe Wicomb, Zakes Mda, Niq Mhlongo and Ivan Vladislavic. The book shows how, despite momentous political transition from apartheid to democracy, little in South Africa’s socio-economic reality has actually changed. It discusses how the contemporary South African novel engages with this reality. In forms of literary experiment, the novels open up intellectual spaces shaping or contesting the idea of the “new South Africa”.
I have been developing my interest in Ivan Vladislavic's work, and have published several book chapters and articles on his work. I recently interviewed Vladislavic for our student and research communities with one of our PhD students, Josh Hambleton-Jewell.
I also work on the cross-over between art and visual culture and postcolonial studies. My current research is deepening my interests in environmental justice in literatures of the Global South.
My teaching reflects all these interests, as well as World and postcolonial literatures, the environmental humanties, and urban studies . I welcome PhD applications in all the areas detailed here.
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- South African literature of the apartheid and post-apartheid eras
- postcolonial literature and theory
- World literatures
- Intellectual history in the postcolonial and South African contexts
- literary representations of art and visual culture
- urban studies
- literary representations of environmentalism and environmental justice
- critical theory
My primary research interests are South African literary and cultural studies of the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. I have worked extensively on the writing of the South African novelist and Nobel Prize winner, J. M. Coetzee. My first book, J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual, is a collection of essays by prominent Coetzee scholars that is concerned with the ethics of intellectual practice and is published by Ohio University Press. J. M. Coetzee and the Paradox of Postcolonial Authorship is a monograph on Coetzee published in 2009 by Ashgate. I have co-edited Approaches to Teaching J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace and Other Works, with Laura Wright and Elleke Boehmer (MLA, 2014).
My most recent book, The Worlding of the South African Novel: Spaces of Transition, explores the transitional period from apartheid to democracy in South African literary history. I consider, amongst other topics, representations of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission; of urban space; of utopia and black intellectualism; of art and visual culture, and the intersections between environmental injustice and human disease (here, HIV/AIDS).
I have an ongoing interest in literary representations of environmental justice in postcolonial and world literatures, and have recently had published an article on Arundhati Roy's "The God of Small Things" in the context of environmentalist theories of "scale".
I welcome applications from prospective PhD students in the following areas:
- South African literature and cultural history
- Environmental justice in the Global South, literary representations of
- World and postcolonial literatures and cultures
- The "postcolonial" city, literary representations of
- Art and visual culture, literary represenations of
- South African writers, including: J.M. Coetzee, Ivan Vladislavic, Zoe Wicomb, Zakes Mda, Phaswane Mpe
Please get in touch by email if you would like to discuss applying.
Contribution to discipline
In 2002 I organised a two-day international conference on Coetzee, J. M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Intellectual Practice, at the University of Warwick. This conference was funded by the British Academy, the Humanities Research Centre (Warwick), and the Centre for Philosophy and Literature (Warwick). I was funded by the AHRC to visit South Africa on research in 2001 and 2006.
I am a member of the Royal Society of Africa and Royal African Society and the African Studies Association UK and was a founding member of the Postcolonial Studies Association UK.
In 2020-21, I will be teaching the following:
EAS3195: Acts of Writing: From Decolonisation to Globalisation
EASM173: Postcolonial Studies: Literature, Theory, Practice
EAS2113: Culture, Crisis and Ecology in a Postcolonial World
EAS3190: African Narratives (guest tutor)
EASM170: Environmental Humanities