Dr Hedley Twidle
BA (Hons) Oxon, MA PhD York
Office: AC Jordan 127
Tel: +27 (0)21 650 2844
- 20th-century and contemporary literature
- South African writing, history and performance culture
- Literary non-fiction: life-writing, long-form, memoir, essay
- Environmental humanities; Anthropocene arts and activism; literature and the environmental imagination
- Creative writing: narrative non-fiction and the essay
- Writing and music
I joined the department in 2010 as a lecturer in southern African and postcolonial literatures. Much of my current work addresses contemporary life-writing and non-fiction narrative. What, after all, does the word ‘literary’ signify in a phrase like ‘literary non-fiction’? And how can one explore the array of non-fictional modes that are simultaneously drawn on, refashioned and blurred into each other in South African writing: experimental auto/biography, investigative journalism, the Struggle memoir, the diary, microhistorical and archival reconstruction.
My research also explores the difficult relation between environmental thought and social history in southern Africa. Since 2013 I have been involved in the conceptualisation and planning of a new interdisciplinary M Phil in the Environmental Humanities, launched in February 2015. I am also a member of the Archive and Public Culture research initiative, a dynamic intellectual space where new research can be presented to experts in the field.
I have a strong interest in the essay as a critical, narrative and creative form, and write regularly for publications like the New Statesman, Financial Times and Mail&Guardian.
- Bodley Head / Financial Times Essay Prize, 2012.
- Maill&Guardian 200 Young South Africans, 2013.
- UCT Distinguished Teachers Award, 2013.
Firepool: Experiences in an Abnormal World (Kwela Books, 2017).
A collection of my essays and creative non-fiction.
‘A Very Strange Relationship’: Life Writing, Overwriting and the Scandal of Biography in the Gordimer-Roberts Affair. Biography, 41:1 (2018).
N2: Reading and Writing the South African Highway. Social Dynamics 43:1 (2017).
An Interview with Rustum Kozain. Wasafiri, 31:2 (2016).
Unusable Pasts: Life-writing, Literary Non-fiction and the Case of Demetrios Tsafendas.Research in African Literatures, 46:3 (2015).
Invasive Narratives and the Inverse of Slow Violence: Alien Species in Science and Society. Environmental Humanities, vol. 7 (2015). Co-authored with Susanna Lidström, Simon West, Tania Katzschner and M. Isabel Pérez-Ramos (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden).
Visions of Tsafendas: Literary Biography and the Limits of ‘Research’. Safundi, 16:4 (2015).
Rachel Carson and the Perils of Simplicity: Reading Silent Spring from the Global South. Ariel 44: Special Issue on Postcolonial Ecocriticism (May, 2014).
‘In a Country Where You Couldn’t Make this Shit Up?’ Literary Non-fiction in South Africa. With responses by Stephen Clingman, Rob Nixon and others. Safundi, 13:1-2. Special Issue: Beyond Rivalry: Fact | Fiction, Literature | History, ed. Rita Barnard, (2012).
Thirteen Ways: Teaching Writing, Creative and Otherwise. At the Foot of the Volcano: Reflections on Teaching at a South African University, ed. Susan Levine, HSRC Press, 2018.
Nothing Extraordinary: E.M. Forster and the English Limit. In Relocations: Reading Culture in South Africa (University of Cape Town Press, 2015).
Sea Point Contact: Preface to a Literary History of Cape Town (Never Written). Weeds and Viruses: Ecopolitics and the Demands of Theory. Editors: Cordula Lemke (Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School) and Jennifer Wawrzinek (English Institute), Institute of English, Freie Universität Berlin (2015). Foreword by Dipesh Chakrabarty.
‘The Bushmen’s Letters': |Xam narratives of the Bleek and Lloyd Collection and their Afterlives. Chapter One, The Cambridge History of South African Literature (2012), ed. David Attwell and Derek Attridge.
From The Origin of Language to a Language of Origin: a Prologue to the Grey Collection, in Print, Text and Book Cultures in South Africa, ed. Andrew van der Vlies, Johannesburg: Wits Press, 2012.
Reviews, essays and literary journalism:
‘Three great hopes for a post-apartheid culture, gone too soon’ – On Phaswane Mpe, Moses Taiwa Molelekwa and K Sello Duiker (excerpt from Firepool). Johannesburg Review of Books, 3 July 2017.
The Sound of Islay. Introducing the FT / Bodley Head essay competition. Financial Times, 11 November 2016.
The Institute for the Less Good Idea. Profile of William Kentridge for Financial Times magazine, 2 September 2016.
Half-lives, Half Truths. Svetlana Alexievich and the Nuclear Imagination. South Africa PEN essay series, 18 August 2016.
Nuclear Summer. A walk through South Africa’s nuclear pasts and futures. Sunday Times, 7 February 2016.
The Pitfalls of Geological Consciousness: Thinking the Anthropocene from Africa South. Karoo Futures seminar group, Stellenbsoch, 20 July 2017.
Misreading, Risk and Heterodoxy in the Work of Jacob Dlamini. Paper delivered at the Department of English and Related Literatures, University of York, 27 April 2017.
Literatures of Betrayal: Risk, collaboration and collapse in post-TRC narrative. The Eleventh International Conference for Literary Journalism Studies: ‘Literary Journalism: Telling the Untold Stories’. Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande so Sul. Porto Alegre, Brazil, 19-21 May 2016.
Convening and Curriculum Change: Problems and Possibilities. Third Space Symposium: Decolonisation and the Creative Arts, Hiddingh Hall, University of Cape Town. 13-14 May 2016.
Visions of Tsafendas: Life-writing and the limits of ‘research’. Seminar at the Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, 11 April 2016.
Half-lives, Half-truths: Nuclear legacies and some forms of non-fiction. Paper delivered at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER). Literature in the Age of the Anthropocene colloquium, 10 to 11 November, 2015.