Humanities Academics Present Research at Association of Professional Italianists Conference
Six academics from the College of Humanities were part of the Association of Professional Italianists (API) conference in Sicily, Italy. The conference organiser was the president of the API, UKZN’s Mrs Federica Bellusci, while Professors Jaco Alant and Rosemary Wildsmith, and Drs Bridget Campbell, Loraine Prinsloo and Samiksha Laltha presented papers. The theme was History and Literature: An Uneasy Kinship.
Alant’s paper was titled, From Clerk to Superhero, History to Myth: Dan Sleigh, Umberto Eco and the Authorial Double. It explored the “double position” of the author Dan Sleigh, not as the paradoxical White writer of post-colonial “resistance”, but in terms of Sleigh’s relationship to the character who most likely represents him, the “clerk”.
‘This representation is obvious. Prior to writing Eilande, Sleigh was, at least until his retirement in 1996, primarily a historian at the Cape Archives. The “clerk”, similarly, works as secretary for the VOC (Dutch East-India Company), a position that provides him, just like a historian, with a great deal of documentary information. But what if Sleigh’s clerk is really Clark (Kent), lowly double to the epoch-making author - Superman of South African literature - that Sleigh was to become?’ said Alant.
Wildsmith’s contribution examined the etiology of naming practices and explored the various functions which naming has in the context of rock climbing as a sport. Her findings indicate that naming practices in rock climbing have a number of functions besides the identification of climbs, including literary and musical allusions, word play and communication of experiences of the climbs themselves. ‘Rock climbers continuously strive for self-mastery and, in doing so, unleash a depth of creativity that expresses itself through the names they give to climbs. This is very different to the kind of “mastery” gained over something through (re)naming of places or institutions in a political context,’ she said.
Prinsloo and Campbell’s paper was titled, Negotiating language transitioning in Higher Education: I know English - what is this Academic Literacy? It was based on a pilot study of a longitudinal six-semester arts based narrative inquiry that explored UKZN students’ literate life histories and then examined how they manage the linguistic demands of academic literacy at university. The field texts are students’ literate life histories and focus groups along with metaphors and images, which serve as depictions of their challenges. They reveal what was discovered about the students’ literacy journeys, their literacy challenges at university and their learning, while also reporting on their own reflective practices during the pilot study.
Laltha’s presentation explored the relationship between film, history and literature; through a textual analysis of the popular Hollywood film Equilibrium. This film makes intertextual reference to the historical event of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. She noted that it also makes a powerful socio-political statement against totalitarianism and totalitarian regimes.
‘Memory and history share an intrinsic relationship as revealed by the dialogue created between Wimmer’s text and Eliot’s representation of the events surrounding Becket’s death. Eliot commemorated Becket’s memory through dramatising Becket’s martyrdom, which is enacted and re-enacted on stage,’ said Laltha. ‘By referring to Becket’s death, Wimmer’s text also commemorates his memory and historical significance, which is disseminated through a popular Hollywood film. The site of popular, contemporary film functions as a powerful reference and embodiment of historical literature, revealing its relevance for contemporary visual culture today.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo