Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Cosmopolitan Peasantry: Roy Campbell in Spain

Lannie Birch.

Roy Campbell was raised in a period of accelerated social and industrial change in South Africa. Born at the end of the Anglo-Boer War, he grew up during the period of Union, with its burgeoning myth-making propaganda in the post-1910 era, intended to draw tourism and travel to a young nation, and which represented the country as a repository of pastoral and primitivist experience. As an adult, he lived and worked in Mediterranean villages and towns, converting to Catholicism, and settling finally in Portugal.

Strongly connected to Anglo-European modernist networks, Campbell’s instinctive, and conservative, attractions to village life in archaic Mediterranean spaces were of his time. Why, though, would a South African poet of his impulses and tastes abandon the late colonial context, and the poetic opportunities that the landscape and its people had represented for him? In this paper, I will consider Campbell’s poetic and personal choices in the context of his relationship to the South African landscape, a space rich with material for modernist and "primitivist" imagery, but which was newly and aggressively marketing these very qualities.

This paper will reflect on these meanings of landscape, lifestyles, family and belief, drawing on Campbell’s autobiographies, letters, and criticism, and on the passions and desires for particular forms of space, rhythm and time expressed in his verse.


Lannie Birch  (South Africa)
Department of English
University of the Western Cape

I have worked as a lecturer in the UWC English Department for the past 8 years, where I am now registered as a Doctoral student.

  • Roy Campbell
  • South African "modernism"
  • Poetry & landscape
  • "Primitivism" and "masculinity"

(Virtual Presentation, English)