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Departmental Associate

Peter Knox-Shaw

An Honorary Research Associate of the Department since 1995, Peter Knox-Shaw went on from a first degree in Philosophy and English at UCT to do both parts of the English Tripos at Cambridge, whereafter he began research on the eighteenth-century novel under the supervision of Gillian Beer. Returning to UCT as a lecturer in English Literature in 1975, he was appointed a senior lecturer in 1987, prior to his taking early retirement in 1991. In the first half of his career teaching was an almost exclusive priority. At Cambridge he acted as a supervisor for five colleges in a number of different fields, and at UCT rejoiced in the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of authors, giving lecture series on Shakespeare, Marvell, Defoe, Swift, Pope, Coleridge, Keats, George Eliot,  James, Joyce, Woolf, Lawrence, White, and Coetzee, while offering ‘option’ courses on topics such as ‘1789’, ‘Satire’, ‘Elegy’, ‘Modernism’, ‘The Image’, and taking on over twenty research students. Only in 1979 did he begin publishing, but after his first book, The Explorer in English Fiction (Macmillan, 1987; Springer 2016)), research of a painstaking historical kind, requiring a great deal of reading, rapidly became an obsession, leading him to opt eventually for a different mode of existence – effectively that of a research student and horticultural labourer combined.

Many forms of professional activity continued. Papers were given at local and international forums, including the annual Coleridge conference at Cannington in 1994, Otago’s Bamforth lecture of 2007, and the Mandeville Tercentenary at Coimbra in 2013. Over the same period, Peter acted as external examiner for the English departments at Durban, Wits, and UCT in turn; examined many PhDs; and served as a reader for Cambridge University Press, as well as for numerous academic journals. 2004 saw the publication of his long-nurtured project, Jane Austen and the Enlightenment (Cambridge, 2004), which won a prize from the American Library Association in 2005, the UCT book award in 2006, and is still much cited and read. Other work on Austen includes chapters in Jane Austen in Context (Cambridge, 2005) and the Cambridge Companion to Pride and Prejudice (Cambridge, 2013), both edited by Janet Todd, and a more recent essay in Jane Austen’s Emma: Philosophical Perspectives, ed. E. M. Dadlez (Oxford, 2018). In all, Peter has published over fifty academic articles, almost half in Oxford journals, and has contributed chapters to nine books. At present he is engaged on a work entitled The Enlivenment, a study of the European Enlightenment over the period 1750-1820, viewed from the perspective of the life sciences. This slow-maturing project, which grew out of his last book, is in keeping with his lifelong interest in ecology.