Professor J M Coetzee
MA Cape Town PhD Texas DLitt (hc) Strathclyde DLitt (hc) Buffalo FRSL DLitt (hc) Natal DLitt (hc) Skidmore
As a University of Cape Town (UCT) Alumnus and Emeritus Professor, the English department is proud to include J.M. Coetzee among its fellows. Coetzee’s work has been awarded the highest honours in the literary world and has won the CNA Prize thrice (1977, 1980 and 1984), the Commonwealth Writers Award (2000), the Nobel Prize in Literature (2003), as well as the esteemed Booker Prize twice (1983 and 1999).
While a student at the University of Cape Town, Coetzee received his Bachelor of Arts with Honours in English in 1960 and his Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Mathematics the following year, 1961. In 1963, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree from the English Department for his thesis on the novels of Ford Madox Ford entitled "The Works of Ford Madox Ford with Particular Reference to the Novels" (1963).
After completing his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin and a three-year spell as an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Coetzee returned to the University of Cape Town’s English department. Between 1972 and 2000 he held a series of positions at his alma mater, the last of them as Distinguished Professor of Literature. Concurrently he held visiting positions at a number of universities in the United States, notably the University of Chicago, from which he retired in 2003 as Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought. Since 2011 he has been Professor of Literature at the University of Adelaide.
In recent years, J.M. Coetzee has returned to the University of Cape Town for numerous events and special lectures. On 21 December 2012, as one of his latest visits to the university, the acclaimed novelist and former UCT professor of English literature read from his most recent work, a novel which was to be published the following year, The Childhood of Jesus (2013) [Video Link]. We at the English Department have always eagerly anticipated and continue to welcome the visits of J.M. Coetzee to UCT, as his special lectures and talks are always thought provoking affairs to both students and faculty alike.
Coetzee’s legacy lives on at the University of Cape Town, with a committed fellowship of academics who devote their studies to his work. Lead by the English department’s own Professor Carrol Clarkson, who recently authored a book relating to the multifaceted nature of Coetzee’s work, numerous dissertations centred on his writing are produced every year by students at various levels of study. In 2006 the English Department created the Coetzee Collective. The discussion group manages, among other things, to keep the fire burning with regard to literary debate among UCT scholars and other local and international Coetzee academics.
If you have not yet delved into the powerfully stimulating work of an author who Richard Poplak called, “inarguably the most celebrated and decorated living English-language author” do not despair! You can access all J.M. Coetzee’s published fiction, and a vast array of critical works, in the University of Cape Town’s Library . To find out more about the life and writing of J.M. Coetzee, be sure to read the late JC Kannemeyer’s beautifully detailed biography entitled JM Coetzee: A Life in Writing. If you are in Cape Town, keep an eye out for the chance to see J.M. Coetzee’s next appearance on home soil.