A Pedagogy of Letters: LASA Lecture Series

deadline for submissions: 
June 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Literature Association of South Africa | Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg
contact email: 

A Pedagogy of Letters: LASA Lecture Seriesin collaboration with
The Faculty of Education
University of Johannesburg
2, 9, 16 and 23 September 2020 | Online Over the last few decades, at most universities, faculties previously organised as ‘Arts and Letters’ or ‘Letters and Philosophy’ have given way to more instrumentally named faculties of ‘Humanities,’ or even ‘Human Sciences’. While this chimes well with governmental policy goals during the first decade of democracy (i.e. emphasis on universities’ role in the country’s economic growth through furnishing students with ‘practical’ skills), it also reveals, when viewed from the present, an underestimation of the important role of a so-called liberal arts education. Literary studies offers us an intellectual space in which to develop interdisciplinary research traditions that brings the arts into direct dialogue with other disciplines. But within the context of a literature department, we face the question: ‘how does the advancement of knowledge through research, teaching and learning respond to global challenges without neglecting local complexities, particularly in a context of poverty, unemployment, disease and conflict’ (Jansen & Motala, 2017:1-2)? Within this context, we have seen new challenges arise and existing challenges exacerbated due to the global spread of COVID-19.

Much has been written in the past five years about the imperatives of decolonisation in the South African higher education landscape. Universities and academic departments throughout the country have been energised by the decolonial turn, where the argument for decolonising universities is inextricably linked with issues such as ‘equitable access, black identity, racial inequality, intersectionality and curriculum relevance’ (Jansen & Motala, 2017:1).

While teachers of literature have, for many decades, been engaging with many of the ideas that stand under the broad umbrella of what we might now call the decolonial turn, movements such as #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall have given rise to a new sense of urgency – not just in how scholars reconsider the very content and practices of their research, but also how they effect this in their teaching.

The broader conversation surrounding decolonisation at universities often pivots on discussions relating to the everyday practical needs of students: funding, housing, transport, etc. And in terms of transforming the curriculum, much has also already been written. But if students' practical needs are central to their experience of higher education, so too should the students’ engagement with their learning content. Indeed, how can academics – and especially those who teach literature – contribute to this discussion? What can literature and the very teaching of literature at universities and schools offer as they continue to engage with the imperatives of transformation?

LASA invites both scholars and postgraduate students of literature to present papers on the current state of literature teaching at South African universities and schools. In rethinking the study of literature, we invite reflections on what we teach, how we teach and why we teach. Submissions with a focus on any of the following are therefore welcome:

  • intersections between literature and educational practice
  • institutional and policy frameworks for literary studies
  • literature as/in education
  • text selection and curriculum design
  • genre (poetry, drama, prose), pedagogies and curricula
  • global and/or local literary systems
  • children's literature
  • socially just pedagogies
  • ethics and aesthetics in the study of literature
  • academic freedom
  • literature in values education
  • literature in social science education
  • teaching literature during the COVID-19 pandemic

Papers should be no longer than 20 minutes. Please submit abstracts of between 250 and 300 words by 30 June 2021 to Dr David Robinson (davidr@uj.ac.za) and Dr Neil van Heerden (vheern@unisa.ac.za).

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this lecture series replaces the biennial LASA conference. Papers will be spread over a series of weeks during the month of September, and will be presented one or two in a session, with some time for facilitated discussion and conversation after each paper.
 *Jansen, J. & Motala, S. 2017. Introduction - Part I. Curriculum stasis, funding and the 'decolonial turn' in universities - inclusion and exclusion in higher education in South Africa. Journal of Education, 68:1-2.