Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Elizabeth Costello, William Makgoba, and the Future of the Humanities in Africa.

Prof Gareth Cornwell.

In his latest book, 'Elizabeth Costello', J.M. Coetzee includes a ‘lesson’ entitled ‘The Humanities in Africa’. In it, his novelist character Elizabeth Costello has an argument with her sister Blanche (a nun) over the latter’s public depreciation in South Africa of the whole Western tradition of 'Studia Humanitatis'. Specifically, Blanche points to the signal failure of ‘the humanities’ to take firm root in Africa, and - in my view -wins the argument.
This piece is compared with recent developments in tertiary education in South Africa and pronouncements by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor M W Makgoba, on the ‘Africanisation’ of South African universities, so as to suggest a framework for considering the future of the Humanities in Africa.


Prof Gareth Cornwell  (South Africa)
Associate Professor and Head of Department
Department of English
Rhodes University

Gareth Cornwell has published mainly in the field of South African literature. For some years editor of the scholarly journal English in Africa, his current interests include contemporary American fiction.

  • J.M. Coetzee
  • Elizabeth Costello
  • Professor M W Makgoba
  • Humanities in Africa

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)