South African Modernism 1880-2020 is an AHRC-funded project led by Dr Jade Munslow Ong. In this blog post, she presents a round-up of the first year of the project, and some of the team’s plans for 2022.
You can also find a version of this blog post on the project website here.
Starting this project in 2021 proved rather challenging due to lockdowns, covid and travel restrictions, and even a broken leg(!). There was still reason to celebrate however, as in September Sanja Nivesjö was able to join Jade Munslow Ong (PI) and Emma Barnes (RA) at the University of Salford as a Swedish Research Council-funded Postdoctoral Fellow; and in December Emma was awarded a PhD for a thesis entitled ‘Plants, Animals, Land: More-than-human Relations and Gendered Survivance in Early Indigenous Women’s Writing’.
Two articles associated with this project have been accepted for publication. The first, ‘Decolonising the English Literature GCE A-Level via the South African Ex-Centric’ was published by English: Journal of the English Association in their Autumn 2021 issue. The second article, ‘“Too uncompromising a figure to be so disposed of”: Virginia Woolf and/on Olive Schreiner’ will be out with English Studies in Africa in Summer 2022.
This year we started work on an edited collection titled Olive Schreiner: Writing Networks and Global Contexts, which is currently under consideration with Edinburgh University Press. Co-edited by Jade and Andrew van der Vlies (Co-I), this volume will consider the relevance and importance of writer, activist and thinker, Olive Schreiner (1855-1920), in international and multidisciplinary contexts —literary, intellectual, political and cultural — in her own time and in ours. The fifteen chapters that comprise the collection draw on evidence from Schreiner’s friendships, networks, letters, and political and literary writings, to demonstrate distinct, situated understandings of the significance of Schreiner’s politics and aesthetics for diverse individuals, coteries and communities globally, across a range of fields, and in a variety of forms.
In November, we hosted a series of online conversations for the contributors to the collection. These were highly enjoyable and productive, and drew out various connections between the topics under discussion, which included: Schreiner and/on labour, race, eco-/feminism, anarchism, religion and modernism; Schreiner’s networks (including in the UK, USA, South Africa, India and beyond, and involving figures such as Edward Carpenter, Sol Plaatje, Amy Levy, John Tengo Jabavu and others); Schreiner in translation; Schreiner in the world (South Africa, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, USA, Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia); Schreiner in the museum; and Schreiner’s influence on later Southern African writers J. M. Coetzee, Bessie Head, and Zoë Wicomb.
The collection will comprise chapters authored by the following contributors: Barnita Bagchi; Heidi Barends; Emma Barnes; Dorothy Driver; Małgorzata Drwal; Jeremy Fogg and Paul Walters; Clare Gill; Nicholas Jose, Alex Sutcliffe and Mandy Treagus; Jade Munslow Ong; Sanja Nivesjö; Janet Remmington; Mark Sanders; Liz Stanley; Andrew van der Vlies; and Dan Wylie.
In January 2021 we were awarded £2200 jointly by the School of Arts, Media and Creative Technologies and the Research Impact Fund at the University of Salford. This funded a research-impact project entitled ‘South African Modernism as Decolonising Methodology for A-Level English Literature’, and allowed Jade, Emma, and Salford PGR student Hannah Helm (Bury) to co-design and deliver lectures and workshops for students pursuing the WJEC Eduqas A-Level in English Literature.
In June 2021 our team joined forces with Manchester PGR student Natalie Ilsley, and together were awarded £4973 by the AHRC NorthWest Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership Target Funding scheme to expand our pilot project. In this second phase we are developing and delivering teaching sessions for students pursuing AQA, Edexcel and OCR A-Level English Literature qualifications.
The aims of our research-impact project are a) to extend the reach and impacts of AHRC-funded research; b) to assist student learning and preparation for A-Level English Literature assessments; and c) to support and enhance decolonising efforts in English Studies.
By April 2022 we will have delivered over 80 hours of teaching to 530+ students across 12 Further Education providers.
Details about the project with testimonials from teachers and students can be found here.
Jade’s research article on decolonising the English Literature A-Level can be found here.
Hannah’s account of the first phase of working in schools can be found here.
Emma’s post about our AHRC NWCDTP funding can be found here.
In December 2020 Jade took part in an online event to celebrate the Olive Schreiner Centenary alongside Prof Elleke Boehmer (Oxford), Dr Carolyn Burdett (Birkbeck) and Dr Christopher Warnes (Cambridge). This was co-organised by Joe Shaughnessy and Benjamin Klein, and hosted by the University of Cambridge. Jade’s Africa in Words blog post, ‘Remembering Olive Schreiner 100 Years After Her Death’, can be found here.
Jade was also invited to speak on ‘Olive Schreiner’s Anti-colonial Allegories’ at the University of Oxford in March 2021, and gave the paper ‘“Too uncompromising a figure to be so disposed of”: Virginia Woolf and/on Olive Schreiner’ at Bangor University in the same month.
In June 2021, Andrew was interviewed about South African historical fiction for the podcast Full Particulars. This was hosted by Prof David Attwell, and also featured a reading from Still Life by the author, Zoë Wicomb.
We have been keeping our website up-to-date with monthly blog posts. Highlights include guest posts by Natalie on African Modernist Art, and Sanja on Liquid Modernity / Leaking Bodies in 1920s South African Literature. Our most-read blog post commemorates the centenary of the Reinternment of Olive Schreiner on Buffelskop.
Though 2022 looks likely to be just as unpredictable as 2021, we hope that some easing of covid/travel restrictions will allow members of the team to undertake postponed research trips. Jade and Sanja both plan to conduct archival research in locations including Durham, London, Johannesburg and Makhanda Grahamstown, and the team hope to join collaborators in Cradock for the 12th Annual Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival (date TBC). Andrew is also looking forward to finally being able to join his colleagues at the University of Adelaide in Australia, after a year of remote working.
Look out too for an episode of Freethinking on BBC Radio 3 on ‘Global Modernisms’, hosted by Rana Mitter, and featuring Jade as a panellist alongside Devika Singh, María del Pilar Blanco and Christopher Harding (air date TBC).