Four English Studies Students achieve MA Degrees
Students Ms Michelle Naudé, Ms Tracy Webb, Ms Paige Frankson and Ms Robyn Wilkinson were elated to graduate with their Masters in Arts from UKZN.
‘I am proud of myself for achieving something that at times felt beyond my reach,’ said Naudé, while Webb added: ‘It is very uplifting to see such gratifying results from a period of such hard and intensive work.’ Both students were supervised by Professor Cheryl Stobie.
Naudé, a Lecturer at Varsity College in Durban North, explored the role of gender in the depiction of Utopia in a selection of novels. Her study includes a look at the traditional Western gender binary and associated notion of male superiority, and the ways in which representations of Utopia frequently subvert and/or exaggerate these ideas to provide a social commentary and potentially social change.
‘I think any critical analysis of gender issues is beneficial, as even in 2016 many people rely upon gender stereotypes to produce meaning. This is frequently accompanied by notions of heteronormativity, which can be harmful in a myriad of ways.’
‘For example, many young men growing up in what is still a strongly patriarchal and homophobic South Africa feel rejected and so repressed as a result of these archaic and rigid notions of what is socially acceptable. Thus my discussion of gender contributes to a vast body of academia, supporting notions of gender and sexual fluidity in a predominantly prejudiced world,’ explained Naudé.
Durban Girls’ College intern, Ms Tracy Webb, studied the narrative of the development of female protagonists in novels, considering separate contexts: the female re-appropriation of traditionally male quest myth, a spiritual quest and a psychological quest. Her dissertation examines the treatment of the female protagonist in three Margaret Atwood novels.
Webb believes her study highlights the journey of women in different societal contexts and has value for empowering a female narrative.
‘What I especially appreciate about masters is that it was a very difficult time, trying to consolidate all the information and to draw out meaning. It was a process that I really wrestled with and one that I did not relish. I am glad that now, looking back I can glean so much from that time and it is something I appreciate very much,’ she said.
Frankson’s research was titled: “People Out of Place: Emotional Geography, Postmodern Identity and Gender in Three Contemporary Japanese Texts.” She has been accepted for the JET programme, and will spend a year in Japan. She is currently registered for a PhD under Stobie’s supervision, continuing her investigation of Japanese cultural artefacts.
Wilkinson also made a worthwhile contribution to scholarship on well-known South African novelist Lauren Beukes. Her dissertation’s title was: “Representations of Gender and Sexuality in the Key Characters of Lauren Beukes’s Interstitial Fiction.”
The students all thanked their family, friends and supervisor.
Naudé plans to complete a PhD within the next five years, and to publish part of her dissertation. ‘I hope to become an academic one day, and this is a step in the right direction.’ Webb is currently studying towards a Postgraduate Certificate in Education and also plans to pursue a PhD in the future.
English Studies students (from left) Ms Michelle Naudé, Ms Tracy Webb, Ms Paige Frankson and Ms Robyn Wilkinson with their supervisor, Professor Cheryl Stobie.