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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  John Henning

  South Africa

  English, Wolfson college

  PhD thesis: Yeats and his echoes: South African modernisms



Research interests:

  1. Modernist poetry
  2. South African literature
  3. Narrative non-fiction: life-writing, essay
  4. Literature and historiography

There is a growing self-reflexivity in contemporary literary studies about the canonisation of some responses to modernity over others. My interest is in mid to late twentieth century South African modernisms and their relationship to European and North American streams. More specifically, I hope to trace moments in which Irish modernist vocabularies from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries come to be transplanted into a South African landscape marked by variably violent and hopeful anticipations of political transition.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

Having grown up in different parts of post-apartheid South Africa, I have been drawn for as long as I can remember towards the residue of its recent past. My PhD research flows out of a Master’s project on re-reading South African interregnal literature in terms of small spaces (or ‘micro-spaces’) and, before that, work on extremis and liminality in Yeats’s Byzantine poems. In general, I am fascinated by the practice of reading seemingly disparate texts alongside each other.