This blog post is written by Thameena Alam, a PhD student researching world literatures, migration narratives and utopian/dystopian fiction at the University of Manchester. Thameena teaches on our schools project, which is currently funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership grant and a Public Policy Grant from the University of Salford.
On 13th November 2023, the South African Modernism team had the pleasure of hosting students from Collège Jeanne d'Arc who had come to visit us from Salford’s twin city, Clermont-Ferrand, France.
After a warm welcome from Tim Isherwood, Associate Dean International at the School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology, the students were taken on a scenic tour around the University of Salford Media City campus by Jimmy Ewing, Lecturer in Radio Production.
The South African Modernism team then received the students for an afternoon of taster sessions which sought to provide an insight into studying modernism in a university classroom.
Professor Jade Munslow Ong led the first session with a lecture introducing students to South African modernist literature, namely, Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm (1883) and Solomon Plaatje’s Mhudi (1930). The themes of gender, empire and the modern were discussed, and the students quickly warmed to Jade’s engaging and intellectually stimulating talk. We were impressed by the questions that the students posed which suggested a clear attention to detail and newfound interest in South African modernism.
The class were then split into groups for close reading sessions, delivered by Katie Barnes, Keren Poliah and I. The students were provided with an extract from Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm and asked to use their learning from the lecture to analyse the extract. These sessions were full of lively discussion and interaction. For many of the students, this was the first time they had encountered South African modernist literature. Katie, Keren and I were amazed by the high-quality of the students’ critical thinking and analytical skills, especially considering they had not encountered South African modernist texts before. Their observations and insights were needless to say, impressive.
It was pleasing to hear comments from some students expressing their desire to learn more about the field as they felt that it had real relevance to the everyday present. For others, this session was a well-timed opportunity to experience university pedagogy and learn more about studying literature at a UK University as they prepared to submit applications to study at Higher Education institutions at home and overseas.
This session was followed by what would conclude a very vibrant and studious day: a "Create Your Own Modernist Visual Text" workshop - a session designed by Dr Judy Kendall.
Students were invited to use modernist found poetry techniques to create their own modernist visual texts inspired by global writers and writing. They were provided with an abundance of arts and crafts materials alongside printouts of modernist writings, poems and artworks. The creative ingenuity of the class was fantastic, and you can view a gallery of the works produced below.
It was a lovely opportunity for us, as educators, to teach such an engaged and eager group of learners who we wish all the success in their future aspirations. À la prochaine!
If you are feeling inspired and want to hear more about the South African Modernism project, or if you are a teacher and would like to organise a visit with the South African modernism team for your own students, you can contact the team here: firstname.lastname@example.org