Postgraduate Study in English

Our expertise with English as an expressive medium and a field of disciplinary study has led us to design a choice of focused postgraduate modules. These will stimulate your research interests and enhance your understanding of the various historical, creative and critical discourses that have shaped the contemporary discipline of English Studies. Given our context, special attention is paid to southern Africa in relation to the wider world, and we have an ongoing concern with postcolonialism and the emergence of new ‘englishes’.

First Semester


Beginning with St. Augustine’s Confessions, generally thought to be the first autobiography, this module traces shifts in self-conception and self-representation right up to very recent times. Looking at a diverse range of texts from around the world, we will consider key questions: how have autobiographers conceived of the self? How they have construed the relation between self and other? How have they have approached the problems of truth-telling and textual representation? We will consider also the generic particularities of autobiography, and the functions which autobiographical texts can serve.


The course examines a range of key concepts in literary-cultural criticism. As an introduction, attention is given to central texts from the past which have decisively shaped modern conceptions of culture, and thereafter students engage with important debates in contemporary literary theory. Here, central illustrative examples may be drawn from such theoretical areas as Marxism, Feminism Psychoanalysis, Postcolonialism, Cultural Studies, and Deconstruction. In particular, we will follow the interaction among ideas of literary value, the concerns of social criticism, and the nature of subjectivity.


The world of ‘posts’ – postmodern, post-apartheid, post-9/11 – is said to be characterised by information flows, cultural exchanges, translations, diverse experiences, and border crossings. Such movements – whether conversations or journeys – are challenging and arduous. The module explores the perspectives of metropolis and colony, or North and South, through a variety of textual contexts. We look comparatively at texts not only from western Europe and South/Africa, but also by writers from the former Eastern Europe, the United States, Zanzibar, and China. A series of questions will focus the study on issues of belonging and dis/location, ‘home and/ as exile‘.

Second Semester


This is a senior creative writing course in which students develop a sustained writing project in a genre of their choice. In seminars, students are familiarised with the critical debates informing creative writing as a sub-field of English Studies, and they participate in writing exercises. Students are also expected to cover a range of prescribed reading as a means of developing style and technique. Entrance to the course is subject to the submission of a short portfolio of illustrative work for the consideration of the steering committee. (Contact Dr Moolman.) Along with a number of seminar work pieces which comprise a record of progress, course participants will be expected to produce a substantial piece of creative writing by the end of the course – poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, scriptwriting…


This module traces the historical relationships between gender and writing in various parts of the world. Seminars address: the possibilities of reading and writing as empowerment; the politics of language; how/why the ownership of writing changes at different times in different societies; how women enter writing; how a place in the institutions of writing has been affected by factors such as race and class; how women are represented in various genres; and how women in oral cultures enter writing.


The module addresses influential South African literary-cultural concerns through the examination of texts by leading South African writers. Running through the course is a series of questions with which students are required to grapple: What is suggested, in the course material, about how to live in a particular place at a particular time? Is ‘identity’ an essence, a construct, an uneasy mediation amongst contradictory positions? How have local particularities been conceived by writers in relation to various metropolitan, or supposedly global, realities?


This module is concerned with the theory and practice of translation and intercultural studies. It is suited to professionally-oriented students and, more generally, to those interested in the processes of culture, communication and language. The module is available to all students, but may be of particular relevance to those taking English, Cultural/ Media and Gender Studies, Languages and Linguistics. The course draws on key theoretical issues and practical methodologies of cultural and linguistic translation. In a world where cross-cultural communication has global applicability, translation should be viewed not only as a linguistic end-product, but also as a process profoundly influenced by, and influencing, complex socio-cultural dynamics.

For further information, including info about the PhD, please contact the Postgraduate Co-ordinator, Dr Matthew Shum:

English Studies offers:

A coursework Honours: 1 year full-time (2 years part-time), based on combinations of the modules listed in this brochure. Full-time students take two modules in each semester. Students who choose English Studies as their home discipline are permitted to replace an English Studies module with one module from another discipline. Students are assessed through combinations of seminar presentation, essay, short task and exam. (Note: in any one course taken in Honours, the long essay must replace the exam.)

An MA by thesis (with support) The research MA is a guided degree. Initially, students are directed towards departmental, school and/or college workshops which assist a postgraduate researcher in identifying a research topic, writing a proposal, and becoming familiar with key literary-cultural debates. Thereafter, a student works with an individual supervisor who facilitates the student’s planning, drafting and writing of a dissertation of approximately 100/120 pages. (The MA thesis may address any area, including cultural studies, creative writing, and translation. Possibilities depend in part on the availability of supervision.)

Your MA studies can be FREE! If you work hard, the MA can be completed full-time in 1 year. There are NO FEES in the first year. If your research runs into the second year, UKZN will charge for a year’s registration. The NRF may provide bursary funding.

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