UWC Honours

UWC Honours, The honours course is a dynamic and challenging course that serves as a useful bridge between the BA and Masters programme. It introduces students to how historians have written history over the course of time and it specially focuses on the challenges of writing history in a post-apartheid South Africa.

The most important component of the course is the research essay and the core course is  meant to provide  insights into writing and researching history. The options on offer also introduce students to possible research areas.  The research essay is an opportunity for the student to develop a line of enquiry that he/she is passionate about and sets the stage for a career of research and writing.      

Structure of the Honours Programme

You may take the Honours degree full-time over one calendar year or part-time over two years. For full-time students, we have organised the programme so that you finish the bulk of the course work in the first semester, and s​tart the long research essay. This gives you more time to reflect on the ideas and texts you encountered, and to complete your long research essay in a relaxed frame of mind. Second semester electives are mainly for students who register for Honours midyear. If you are especially interested in doing one of the second semester electives, contact the Postgraduate Coordinator, Prof. Kobus Moolman, for advice – jmoolman@uwc.ac.za . You will have to supply a motivation letter at least 3 weeks in advance of registration.

Semester 1ENG716 Art of Writing AENG701 (long research essay and methodology seminars)

Your choice of elective. A choice of modules will be offered.

Semester 2

ENG717 Art of Writing BENG701  (finish writing long research essay)

​Full-time classes begin at 14h00, but in some case arrangements may be made to accommodate students who work.

PDF Download: Honours Handbook​​

Semester 1 Compulsory modules
ENG701: Research Essay 
(This is a major essay on which you will work across the year. It prepares you for a MA thesis and should be publishable.)

As a supplement to the research essay, we include compulsory seminars on literary practices and theories during the first semester. These seminars will provide you with a range of readings and examples that highlight particular theoretical arguments, concepts, or styles of writing, and will enrich the essay you will finally write on a particular research topic.  The programme of seminars, readings, research essay topics and deadlines will be made available at the beginning of the academic year. Please see the website for examples of topics in previous years. You could also come up with your own topic in consultation with a supervisor. This needs to be arranged in advance so that you are ready to begin research in week 3 of the first semester. The Honours Research Essay often leads to a Masters thesis.

Research Essay 
In this part of the module, you explore a topic in more depth and detail than the taught courses allow through a research essay of 7 500 words which counts 90% of your mark. A list of topics and deadlines will be provided at the beginning of the year. For some students, this might seem a daunting prospect, but if you think about how much you write each term, it is clearly manageable. Early in the academic year, you will receive guidance in research and writing methods, and during the rest of the year there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss your topic with fellow students and staff members. You will also be given the opportunity in the second term to do an oral presentation of your research at the English Department Honours Student Conference.  After the presentation you will be required to submit a proposal that counts 10% of the final mark. (Please see the guidelines for the essay on p20 of the handbook.]

Examples of research essay below.

ENG716: The Art of Writing A
Adventures in the Novel, Narrative and Life
Term 1: Adventures in the novel: Novelty, newness, is intrinsic to the genre of the novel. The novel ventures into often bold and contested experimentation with voice and characterisation, with sometimes ambivalent engagements with the history of ideas (the visual arts, science, and philosophy). The three texts, from the 18th and 19th centuries, are each striking examples of the genre re-imagining itself and its worlds. Their sometimes provocative, sometimes tentative re-figuring of history, time, voice, and gender shapes reflection on the complex relationships between such concepts. For further details, contact Cheryl-Ann Michael: cmichael@uwc.ac.za 
Key texts 
Samuel Richardson, Pamela (CD)
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (CM)
George Eliot, Middlemarch (CM)

Term 2: Fictions of the Self: In this module, we look at three life stories from three very different intellectual, historical, and geographical backgrounds: All three ask what it means to be human, and what it means to suffer and overcome adversity. Their main point of interest lies in their explorations of journeys into the labyrinth of the self. Behind each story, lie these questions: what is the relationship between the self and civil liberties, the real and the imaginary, and between fiction and history? For further details, contact Mark Espin: mespin@uwc.ac.za  

Key texts
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (CM)
John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (ME)
Virginia Woolf, Orlando (LB)

Semester 1 Elective Modules

ENG718: Creative Writing Honours Module 

Convenor: Meg van der Merwe (mvandermerwe@uwc.ac.za)
This year we will continue to focus on the 4 key areas that we began to address last year:
1)    Inspiration
2)    Editing and refining your work
3)    Getting your work out there (publishing/performance)
4)    Reflecting on how your work relates to the wider historical and literary context (particularly South Africa’s multilingual, multicultural one)
However, this will now be done with an emphasis upon genre. The genre you will be expected to engage with is ghost narratives. This will be done in a weekly group workshop.
Course and learning objectives
*Analyse the key elements of traditional ghost narratives (the Anglo-American tradition, emanating from the Gothic)
*Create a ghost short story which draws upon South African literary, linguistic, cultural and historical traditions
A portfolio of shorter free-writes and drafts produced during group workshops and a complete ghost story. (60%)
Reflective essay, analysing your creative and intellectual process. Reference should be made to literary and other works (oral narratives are fine too) that inspired you. (40%)

In the third year you wrote poetry focussing on the five senses and, unless you chose otherwise, in free verse. This year you will build upon and extend this knowledge. 
This module will focus on two key aspects of writing poetry: namely image and voice. The emphasis in class will be upon the appreciation and reflective study of late twentieth century and contemporary South African poetry.
We will focus particularly on the way that the image produces “concrete significant detail” (Janet Burroway), and how it intersects with the old adage used in fiction ‘Show not Tell’. Then we will examine how voice can be used to provide distance from the self, and allow for humour and irony and tone.
Course objectives
Every week you will hand in a typed version of the poem you wrote the previous week with all the drafts.
You will complete a selection of 12-15 poems in a range of voices, and which reflect your use of the image.
  A portfolio of short free-writes and drafts written during class and 12-15 complete poems. (60%)
A reflective essay, analysing your creative and intellectual process. Reference should be made to literary and other works that inspired you. (40%).

Students interested in admission to the module must submit a brief portfolio of their written creative work which demonstrates the range of their writing. Approximately 10 pieces, including prose, poetry or creative non-fiction.

For further information contact Prof Kobus Moolman: JMoolman@uwc.ac.za

Other 1st Semester Elective Modules

A selection of other modules in literary studies is also available (see Handbook for code details): 

  • Approaches to Literary Studies, 
  • Future Selves: Language, Consciousness and Social Control in 20th and 21st Century Speculative Fiction
  • Studies in Contemporary Poetry
  • British Literature Revisited: Late 18th and 19th Century British Literature
  • Reading Children’s Literature​

Semester 2 Compulsory Modules

ENG701: Research Essay (Continued from Semester 1)

ENG717: The Art of Writing B
Term 3: South African Fiction
This term introduces students to the field of South African literature written in English from 1945 until the beginning of the democratic age. We will examine a number of significant texts, with a particular emphasis on their literary and cultural environment, together with key theoretical debates on the relationship between the literary text and the political context. Texts will cover examples from the liberal anti-apartheid fiction to protest writing in the years leading up to democracy. For further details, contact Hermann Wittenberg: hwittenberg@uwc.ac.za. 

Alan Paton, Cry, the beloved Country (NS)
J.M. Coetzee: Lie & Times of Michael K  (HW)
Sello K Duiker: Thirteen Cents (NS)
Thando Mgqolozana: Unimportance (HW)

Term 4: Perspectives from the Global South:​

This part of the module enters local and global conversations from an ecological, species and gender-refracted vantage point. The texts studied review debates on intimate relationships, and relationships between persons and the natural world within both a national and international context, sensitive to cultural specificities and global wealth flows. There is a strong continental African focus, with a widening towards modulations within the broader global south. For further details, contact Fiona Moolla: fmoolla@uwc.ac.za 

Key texts

Kiran Desai. The Inheritance of Loss 
Lola Shoneyin: The Seret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives 
Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide 

Semester 2 Elective Modules

The second semester electives are mainly for students who register for the degree mid-year. If you wish to take a second semester elective because you are especially interested in the topic, then you will have to supply a rationale. The department prefers students to keep the second semester free to allow completion of the research essay. If, however, you strongly desire to do one of the electives below, send a motivation letter to the Postgraduate Coordinator, Kobus Moolman (jmoolman@uwc.ac.za), at least 3 weeks before registration.

Please contact the postgraduate convener if you want to take a second semester elective module.


Examples of previous year’s Research Essay topics

(Topics are updated every year, and we also welcome different topics, as suggested by students )

Topic 1

Michael Ondaatje’s novel, In the Skin of a Lion, explores time, space and history as it traces the experiences of a disparate group of people in Toronto, Canada, during the early part of the twentieth century. In an essay, discuss the ways in which Ondaatje’s novel depicts these distinct phenomena and brings them together into a work of fiction.

(Supervisor: Mark Espin, mespin@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 2

“JM Coetzee and Jacques Derrida: the question of Writing”

(Supervisor: Peter Kohler, pkohler@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 3

You have been given the task of making a small anthology of ‘ecological’ poetry for high school learners in Cape Town. Assemble a collection of twenty poems of your choice, write a short introduction addressed to the learners, and write an academic essay in which you motivate for this selection.

(Supervisor: Julia Martin,   jmartin@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 4

The Slave Narrative and the Harlem Renaissance Novel:

Explore the significance of the slave past in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. This essay requires research in:

·         slave and spiritual narratives

·         the literary period of the Harlem Renaissance

(Supervisor: Cheryl-Ann Michael, cmichael@uwc.ac.za )

How do biographers imagine literary lives? This essay will trace the uses of archival materials in Jean Fagan Yellin’s biography of Harriet Jacobs. What further insight does archival research offer to our reading of Jacobs’ slave narrative? How do these materials, or gaps in sources, invite the biographer to speculate about, and imagine possible ways of reading the silences in Jacobs’ narrative? This essay requires research in

·         The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (available in published form)

·         Theories of biography

(Supervisor: Cheryl-Ann Michael, cmichael@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 11

No city stands in bricks and mortar which is not also a space of the imagination or of representation. The effect of the city on the imagination exists in a constant tension represented on the one hand as stimulating the imagination and enabling creativity and on the other as constraining it. These two opposing perspectives, or positive and negative imaginaries of the city, have long been embedded in pro- and anti-urbanist movements. Cities are places which enable the realization of the self, or conversely cities separate the self from creativity and imagination in spaces of alienation and estrangement. (Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson  in A Companion to the City.)

Consider the above general statement in relation to the way in which the African city is figured in the novels of two contemporary African writers.

(Supervisor: Fiona Moolla, fmoolla@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 12

Friendship is a relationship, significant to many life narratives both fictional and non-fictional, which rarely receives scholarly attention. Friendship is often contrasted with kinship, is frequently linked with women and is a relationship significantly contemplated upon the death of the friend. African novels present a range of interesting friendships, sometimes even crossing species boundaries. Identify two contemporary African novels in which the friendship relationship is central to narrative dynamics.

(Supervisor: Fiona Moolla, fmoolla@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 13

This topic requires strategic and skillful research, as well as the ability to scan a large number of texts, identifying similarities and differences.

Contemporary African women novelists

Novels by African women writers were first published in the 1960s. By the 1970s and 1980s women writers were significantly represented in the developing canon of the African novel, most notably by Buchi Emecheta, Ama Ata Aidoo, Mariama Bâ, Nawaal el Saadawi and others.  The early novels were generally set in Africa and often charted the course of the heroine from the country to the city. They often focused on the destabilisation of traditional gender roles and foregrounded polygyny, in particular. The twenty-first century has witnessed an exponential increase in the number of novels by African women writers, with significant thematic transformations and changes in narrative point of view. Discuss and try to account for contemporary transformations in novels by African women writers.

 To research this topic you would have to:

·         Do an overview of the work of key 20th century African women writers.

·         Focus on two novels from this period.

·         Identify the new generation of women writers.

·         Select two contemporary novels to analyse.

·         Compare themes, narrative modes and points of view in the novels.

Suggest possible explanations for the changes pointed out.

(Supervisor: Fiona Moolla,  fmoolla@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 14

At the end of the 18th century, the Indian intellectual and courtier Abu Taleb travelled from the subcontinent via the Cape to Europe. The narrative he wrote about his experiences, The travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan in Asia, Africa, and Europe (1810), is a fascinating, rare example of non-Westerners subjecting Europe (and colonial Cape society) to a critical and curious gaze. Explore the narrative in the context of European travel writing at the time (drawing on postcolonial theories of travel writing), and situate Taleb’s story within the newly emerging field of Indian Oceanic studies that takes as its object the rich interconnections between the subcontinent and the Cape. 

(Supervisor: Hermann Wittenberg, hwittenberg@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 15

Coetzee and Adaptation. Several of J.M. Coetzee’s novels were adapted for the cinematic screen, the theatrical stage, or as operas. Select one of these novels and their adaptations, and write an essay in which you explore the intertexual and intermedial connections.

One example may be the novel Life & Times of Michael K, and an unrealised film script by Cliff Bestall, another would be Waiting for the Barbarians, and adapted as a screen play written by Coetzee himself. For this research paper, you would undertake a careful comparison of the two texts (Coetzee’s novel and screenplay) and report on your findings. 

(Supervisor: Hermann Wittenberg, hwittenberg@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 16

The role of the Publication Control Board (the censor) in shaping the production and consumption of literature in South Africa has been the subject of several studies, most significantly in Peter McDonald’s The Literature Police (2009). The focus has so far been on South African literary production, both in English and Afrikaans, but less work has been done on the fate of international authors ranging from DH Lawrence and Vladimir Nabokov to Frantz Fanon. Look at the censorship regime’s treatment of key texts during the 1970s and 1980’s, examining the circumstances in which books were banned or released for South Africa distribution.

(Supervisor: Hermann Wittenberg, hwittenberg@uwc.ac.za )

Topic 17

Arthur Nortje (1942-1970) is probably the most significant poet that UWC has yet produced. Nortje’s complex, modernist lyrics are both deeply entwined with the country’s apartheid past and the politics of race, but also retain an aesthetic independence that make them less easily reducible to resistance literature.  Despite Nortje’s literary stature, there is no public memorial or commemoration on the campus of UWC. Write a well-argued proposal for such a memorialisation, making the case for Nortje’s literary significance, and suggest possible forms that such a memory project might take.

Topic 19

Since 1994, South African literature has seen a number of major changes, generally marked by a shift away from the near-exclusive focus on politically engaged writing. There has been a willingness to use new genres, and while some, such as detective fiction, have become popular, others have remained marginal. Explore some of the less utilized genres such as science fiction, fantasy and the gothic, and suggest reasons which some literary forms have flourished more than others, and what this can tell us about broader cultural shifts in the South African transition. 

(Supervisor: Hermann Wittenberg, hwittenberg@uwc.ac.za

Topic 20

Children’s literature is often neglected in literary studies, and South Africa is no exception when we consider the lack of any attention to this field in Chapman’s encyclopaedicLiteratures of Southern Africa as well as the more recent Cambridge History of South African Literature. Look at a number of recent South African post 1994 youth novels and reflect on their role in reflecting shifts in national culture and the challenges of being young in a transforming society.

(Supervision: Hermann Wittenberg, hwittenberg@uwc.ac.za