Keeping up with the Postdocs

Dr. Asante Mtenje & Dr. Ifeyinwa Okolo

  A postdoctoral fellowship is an excellent opportunity in the career pathing of a young scholar. It’s the chance to re-shape work from the doctoral dissertation into those all-important early publications, and then to take the next step in participating in research projects, collaborative publishing, and building networks.

Here is an update on the recent activities of two postdocs being hosted in the English Department of Stellenbosch University by Professor Murray. Dr Ifeyinwa Okolo (SubCommittee A Postdoc) and Dr Asante Mtenje (African Humanities Postdoc) are both keeping very busy.  

What are we currently reading…



Dr Jeanne Ellis
Mike McCormack, Solar Bones (Tramp Press, 2016)
Lidia Yuknavitch, The Book of Joan (Harper, 2017)
Parker Bilal, City of Jackals (Bloomsbury, 2016)

Prof Grace A. Musila
A Little Life
, Hanya Yanagihara (Pan Macmillan, 2016)
We’re Going to Need More Wine, Gabrielle Union (HarperCollins, 2017)
The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Atlantic, 2015)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery (Editions Gallimard, 2006)

Prof Tina Steiner
The Vegetarian, Han Kang (Portobello Books, 2015)
The Book of Memory, Petina Gappah (Faber & Faber, 2015)
Nubian Indigo, Jamal Mahjoub (Actes Sud, 2006, English translation 2012)
Let My People Go, Albert Luthuli (Tafelberg, 2001)

Dr Wamuwi Mbao
Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater (Grove Atlantic, 2018)

Prof Shaun Viljoen
Walt Whitman’s Guide to Manly Health and Training , Illustrated by Matthew Allen (Pan Macmillan, 2017)

Prof. Annie Gagiano
The Gift of Rain, Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books, 2007)
Warlight, Michael Ondaatje (Penguin, 2018)
Born on a Tuesday, Elnathan John (Grove Atlantic, 2015)
The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry (Faber and Faber, 2008)


Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese Wins 2018 Ingrid Jonker Prize for Loud and Yellow Laughter



     Loud and Yellow Laughter (Botsotso, 2016) by Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese has won the 2018 Ingrid Jonker Prize, which is given in alternate years to the best debut poetry collection in English, or Afrikaans. (The poet is completing her PhD in the English Department at Stellenbosch University, on a Graduate School doctoral scholarship.)

We are delighted by the news of Sindi’s latest success!

The 2018 Ingrid Jonker Prize judges (Sindiwe Magona, Helen Moffett and John Cartwright, all of whom, as is customary with this award, were unaware of one another’s identities until judging had been concluded), described Busuku-Mathese’s winning entry as “completely original”, the poet opting to present “family history as a play, in which the narrator is an unreliable character”. The poet is celebrated for “the mix of World War 2 history, the narrator’s dilemmas about being adopted, and the way she manages to weave these together without ever losing her balance or falling into incongruity”. Also singled out is the poet’s decision to offer “fragments in several voices, some of them ‘reconstructed’ ”. The result is a collection that “movingly reflects the quest of the ‘The Girl Child’, as intimate ‘curator’ of family memory and experience, to integrate the surprising puzzle that is her current self”.  (Read more at

IABA Africa founding colloquium – brief report

Organised by colleagues in the English Department, the inaugural  IABA Africa colloquium attracted auto/biography scholars from South African and African universities, as well as from universities in Australia, and England.

David Attwell, Lizelle Smit and Nick Tembo at the IABA dinner

The plenary address was given by Dr Ricia Chansky of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, and editor of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies. While the devastating hurricanes that had so recently ravaged Puerto Rico put paid to her travel plans, Dr Chansky fortunately managed, amid the crisis of evacuation and disrupted services, to video-record her paper, and her virtual presence at the colloquium made for an extremely moving plenary address on “Instability and Autobiography: Rereading Lives in Times of Crisis.”

Ricia Chansky, virtually with us

The topic couldn’t have been more apt. For many in the audience, the talk brought home the oppressive, debilitating relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico, and the examples of women’s life writing which Chansky discussed carried the message of environmental disaster in relation to the ongoing political disaster that shapes the lives of Puerto Ricans.

Here’s a tantalising glimpse of the wonderful range of papers: presentations on “Queer Self-writing and Archive Creation in Francophone North Africa”; “Ken Gampu: Between Biopic Stardom and Colonial Beingness”; “Uncanny Times: the Case of Eugene de Kock”; “The Tension Between ‘ ‘Disability Autobiography’ and ‘Autre-biography”; “‘Reconstructive Imagination’ at Work in a Child Soldier Narrative”; “Lives in Crisis: Constructing the Self in Ebola Narratives”, and “Love and Struggle: the Auto/biographies of Ayesha Dawood and Fatima Meer”. The event was very deliberately welcoming of papers from many disciplines – hence the lively melee of literary scholars, historians, psychologists, social anthropologists, writers, and cultural studies practitioners. The structure of the colloquium also took inspiration from the innovations experienced at previous IABA international conferences: longer academic papers were interspersed with brief ‘a/b re-mXd’ sessions, allowing presenters to sketch out work-in-progress, or to read from their creative life writing projects. It was a heady intellectual mix which also made space for the affective and the embodied. And let’s not forget the super supper at Tastebud, where food and vino contributed to the veritas of relaxed collegiality.

IABA Africa now begins to look forward, building on the inaugural energies which supported graduate student attendance, and fostered a collaborative environment for those interested in the wide range of a/b studies in African contexts. We hope to create conversations among established a/b forms such as letters, archival research, biopics, and fiction, and new social media, digital platforms, orality, and creative work. The Africa chapter is presently compiling a membership list, and planning a special journal issue. If you have ideas, or are interested in joining IABA Africa, please email both Sally Ann Murray <> and Tilla Slabbert <>. We welcome contributions!

Welcome to the new English at Stellenbosch website!

Welcome to the new website of the English Department at Stellenbosch University. This site will contain prospectuses for undergrad and postgraduate study, our latest research news, as well as the seminars and conferences our department hosts and attends.

You can also more easily find staff profiles and more easily be in touch with staff. We hope you like it, and check back regularly.