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Jade Munslow Ong and Andrew van der Vlies (eds.), Olive Schreiner: Writing Networks and Global Contexts (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2024)

This collection of essays considers the significance of South African-born writer, activist and thinker Olive Schreiner in international and multidisciplinary contexts in her time – and the ongoing relevance of her work to our own. A leading writer of New Woman Fiction at the fin de siècle, Schreiner influenced generations of readers, not to mention other writers. Taken together, these essays make the argument for a ‘new’ Schreiner Studies drawing on recent developments in scholarship on global and peripheral modernisms, activist networks and intersectionality, posthumanism, memory studies and intermediality. They position Schreiner’s work and legacy as significant for understanding literary and social archives, race and gender performance, and the rise of literary modernism in the global Anglosphere.

Contributors include: Barnita Bagchi; Heidi Barends; Emma Barnes; Dorothy Driver; Małgorzata Drwal; Jeremy Fogg and Paul Walters; Clare Gill; Nicholas Jose, Alex Sutcliffe and Mandy Treagus; Jade Munslow Ong; Sanja Nivesjö; Janet Remmington; Mark Sanders; Liz Stanley; Andrew van der Vlies; and Dan Wylie.

Hannah Helm, Emma Barnes, Katie Barnes and Jade Munslow Ong, '"Make Them Roll in Their Graves": South African Writing, Decolonisation, and the English Literature A-Level', English in Education (online first, issue TBC) 

This article analyses the activities and early outcomes of an ongoing co-designed and co-delivered research impact project entitled ‘Decolonising the English Literature A-Level’. It draws on examples from three case studies, classroom experiences, and student and teacher feedback to show how efforts to support the decolonisation of taught content and pedagogies aimed at A-Level learners can generate benefits for students relating to knowledge and understanding; skills development; personal motivation and well-being; academic attainment; and educational and career ambitions and prospects.  

Andrew van der Vlies, 'Common/wealth: Contested Commons and Proleptic Critique', Journal of Commonwealth Literature (online first, issue TBC)

In May 1917, two South African feminist friends and critics of empire then in London sent a telegram to Field Marshal Jan Smuts, the Union of South Africa’s Defence Minister and delegate to the Imperial War Cabinet, in response to his early proposal for a Commonwealth of Nations. It read simply: “Your speech was fine”. Whether intended sincerely (as in “very fine”) or as faint praise (“fine as far as it goes, but”) is not known, but the ambiguity is fitting for an association and description with such contested associations – and one that, by some accounts, originated in the colonies (from an idea proposed by Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and South Africa’s then-Prime Minister J. B. M. Hertzog). It is fitting, too, that one of the cable’s authors was Olive Schreiner (1855-1920), leading novelist of the “New Woman”, advocate of sex equality, and clear-sighted critic of empire’s presumptions, rapacious designs, and gendered and ethnic biases, as well as of the race politics taking shape in South Africa at the start of the twentieth century. Even as we read Schreiner’s work today with an eye to its own prejudices and contradictions, this essay contends that it is worth considering the value of the proleptic critique it embodies for an understanding of the ongoing limitations — but also use-value — of the term “Commonwealth”, as well as of any term that might replace it. The outlines of Schreiner’s critique suggest that the term might yet encode a counter-ideal that points to an ongoing latent potential for the common to be reactivated as promise of a more equal and just division of empire’s spoils.

Maire Tracey, Simon Stanton-Sharma, Sanja Nivesjö, Emma Barnes and Jade Munslow Ong, ‘The Making of All That Is Buried: Dialog, Chronotope and Decoloniality’, Media Practice and Education (online first, issue TBC)


This article argues for the utility of Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theories in developing dialogic and decolonial filmmaking practices. Using the example of our research-led documentary film, All That Is Buried, we challenge traditionally hierarchical structures of film production in which primary authorship lies with the Director/Producer, by implementing dialogic methods of co-creation between filmmakers, researchers and participants. We explain how Bakhtin’s work on dialogism, chronotope, transgredience, polyphony and participative thinking provides the production and filmic tools and methods to host the distinct and equal voices of the South African creatives featured in the film - Zizipho Bam, Sindiswa Busuku, Haroon Gunn-Salie, and Dizu Plaatjies - maintaining throughout a sense of shared and equal investment in the project, and ethical responsibility to the collective. All That Is Buried shows the four participants discussing their work, ideas and experiences as they move between their homes, places of work, sites of inspiration, and artistic installation in and around Cape Town over the course of a day. In both process and product, we demonstrate how our co-creative methods support, and are supported by, practices of decolonial filmmaking, and provide a model useful and replicable for capturing Arts and Humanities research on film.


Andrew van der Vlies, '“Doing very well in South Africa”: Fiona Melrose, Karel Schoeman, and the Intertextual Afterlives of Woolf ’s Mrs Dalloway', English in Africa, 50.2 (2023), 29-49


This essay examines two South African responses to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925): Fiona Melrose’s  Johannesburg (2017), and Karel  Schoeman’s Die noorderlig (published in Afrikaans in 1975). Melrose’s novel  patterns  character and plot directly on Woolf’s with allusions to her biography  and to other reworkings of the text. Schoeman’s  performs a less obvious  homage to Mrs Dalloway in its exploration of the tensions between politics  and poetics and  formal engagement with the demands of experimentation  and realism. The essay assesses these different modes of  response, points  to Woolf’s influence beyond the anglophone literary world, and positions Schoeman’s work (in  particular) as deserving greater attention from those  speaking –and writing about–English (and its inheritances) in  South Africa



Jade Munslow Ong, ‘“Too uncompromising a figure to be so disposed of”: Virginia Woolf and/on Olive Schreiner’, English Studies in Africa, 65.1 (2022), 31-45.

In her 1925 review of an edited collection of Olive Schreiner’s letters, Virginia Woolf described Schreiner as ‘too uncompromising a figure to be so disposed of’. Prompted by this intriguing comment, this article brings Woolf’s late-1920s writings into conversation with Schreiner’s novels and letters in order to trace personal and textual connections between the two authors. Comparative analysis of Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm (1883) and Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928) reveals similarities and confluences in their novelistic structures, experimental temporalities, allegorical representations, use of natural imagery, and in the central and unifying linear motifs that are used to hold together the novel forms. Additional modernist aesthetic and political links are provided by depictions of sex- and gender-crossing characters in Orlando, The Story of an African Farm and Schreiner’s From Man to Man (1926), as well as by the feminist arguments and role of ‘Shakespeare’s sister’ in From Man to Man and Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929). The article concludes by arguing that Woolf and/on Schreiner provides evidence towards a claim for South Africa as a pioneering site of modernist innovation, and thereby contributes to new understandings of the development of global modernisms.  

Jade Munslow Ong, ‘Decolonising the English Literature GCE A-Level via the South African Ex-Centric’, English: Journal of the English Association, 70.270 (Autumn 2021), 244-252.


In this snapshot article, I outline the background and context for the development of research-led teaching activities aimed at students pursuing the WJEC Eduqas GCE A-Level English Literature qualification. The aims of these activities are threefold: first, to assist students’ learning and preparation for the exam component ‘Unseen Prose’ (worth 10% of the overall qualification); second, to extend the impact of AHRC-funded research on South African literature to 16- to 18-year-old learners; and third, to mobilize the first two aims in support of decolonizing efforts in English Studies.

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'Why Has Modernism Persisted in Africa?', Bristol Ideas (18th January 2023)






Jade Munslow Ong joins Zoe Steadman-Milne and Bristol Ideas to discuss the profound importance and contributions of Olive Schreiner, before turning to consider the work of other South African modernists.

'The Percival Lecture: South Africa's Modernism, Modernism's South Africa' (18th April 2024)

Jade Munslow Ong delivered the annual 'Percival Lecture' for the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. The Manchester Lit&Phil was established in 1781, making it the second oldest learned society in the UK.


[Podcast] 'Studying English (Leigh College)', National College Podcast (February 2024)

The South African Modernism schools team collaborated with English Literature and combined A-Level students from the University of Salford, Leigh College and National College Radio to create a a podcast all about studying English, including close analysis of an extract from Bessie Head's When Rain Clouds Gather (1968).

[Podcast] 'Studying English (Loreto College)', National College Podcast (January 2024)


The South African Modernism schools team collaborated with English Literature students from the University of Salford, Loreto College and National College Radio to create a a podcast all about studying English, including close analysis of Nadine Gordimer's short story 'Once Upon A Time' (1989). 

[Podcast] 'Modernism, Exile and Homelessness', New Thinking, BBC Radio 3 (9th October 2023)

DH Lawrence described outcasts living by the Thames, Mina Loy made art from trash, calling her pieces “refusées", Wyndham Lewis moved from England to North America in search of fame and stability after having been spurned by the cultural establishment in Britain. In this conversation about new research, Jade Munslow Ong, Laura Ryan and Nathan Waddell discuss the way widening the canon of writers traditionally labelled as “modernist” might allow a greater understanding of attitudes towards homelessness and poverty in the early decades of the twentieth century.

[Podcast] 'Studying English (Trafford College)', National College Radio (20th June 2023)

The South African Modernism schools team collaborated with English Literature students from the University of Salford, Trafford College and National College Radio to create a a podcast all about studying English Literature, including close analysis of an extract from Peter Abraham's novel, Mine Boy (1946).

[Podcast] 'Studying English (Burnley College)', National College Radio (27th April 2023)

The South African Modernism schools team collaborated with English Literature students from the University of Salford, Burnley College and National College Radio to create a a podcast all about studying English Literature, including close analysis of Olive Schreiner's allegory, 'Three Dreams in a Desert' (1890).

[Radio] 'The South African Bloomsberries', The Essay, BBC Radio 3 (3rd April 2023)

South African and race relations aren't always thought of as being linked with the experimental writing and art promoted by the Bloomsbury set in 1920s Britain, but New Generation Thinker Jade Munslow Ong, from the University of Salford, argues that without a group of South African authors who came to Britain we might never have had Virginia Woolf's Orlando. But Roy Campbell, William Plomer and Laurens Van der Post weren't the only writers from that country with a Bloomsbury connection. A founder of the Native National Congress - later the ANC - was also hard at work on a novel depicting an interracial friendship.

[Radio] ‘South African Writing’, Free Thinking, BBC Radio 3 (14th June 2022)

Confronting South African history: Damon Galgut, Julia Blackburn, Jade Munslow Ong and Anne McElvoy discuss literature from the farm novel to the ongoing legacy of apartheid.


[Radio] ‘New Generation Thinkers 2022’, Free Thinking, BBC Radio 3 (31st March 2022)

From Shakespearian writing and Tudor sound to the power of song, ideas about stupidity to sea monsters and the soil - the ten academics working at UK universities who have been chosen to share their research on radio give us insights into a range of subjects. Laurence Scott - one of the first New Generation Thinkers back in 2010 is the host. Dr Ellie Chan, University of Manchester Dr Louise Creechan, University of Durham Dr Sabina Dosani, University of East Anglia Dr Shirin Hirsch, Manchester Metropolitan University and the People’s History Museum Dr Oskar Jensen, University of East Anglia Dr Jade Munslow Ong, University of Salford Dr Joan Passey, University of Bristol Dr Jim Scown, University of Cardiff and Food, Farming and Countryside Commission Dr Clare Siviter, University of Bristol Dr Emma Whipday, Newcastle University

[Podcast] ‘Promises Unkept: Damon Galgut with Andrew van der Vlies', Novel Dialogue (17 February 2022)

Guest host Chris Holmes sits down with Booker Prize winning novelist Damon Galgut and Andrew van der Vlies, distinguished scholar of South African literature and global modernisms at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Andrew and Damon tunnel down into the structures of Damon’s newest novel, The Promise to locate the ways in which a generational family story reflects broadly on South Africa’s present moment. The two discuss how lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic invoke for some the limitations on movement during the Apartheid era in South Africa. The Promise is a departure from Damon’s previous two novels, which were peripatetic in their global movement and range. Damon describes the ways in which this novel operates cinematically, as four flashes of a family’s long history, with the disembodied narrator being the one on the move. Damon provocatively divides novels into two traditions: those that provide consolation, and those that can provide true insight on the world but must do so with a cold distance. While he does not call The Promise an allegory, Damon admits to the fun that he has with inside jokes that play with allegorical connections, as long as the reader is in on the joke. Damon directly takes on his choice to leave a pregnant absence in the narrative’s insight into his black characters “sitting at the very heart of the book.”

[Radio] ‘Modernism around the World’, Free Thinking, BBC Radio 3 (2nd February 2022)


Rana Mitter and his guests Jade Munslow Ong, Devika Singh, María del Pilar Blanco and Christopher Harding put aside modernism’s Eurocentricism to look at pioneering modernist art, writing and architecture in India, South Africa, Japan and Latin America.


[Podcast] 'David Attwell in conversation with Zoë Wicomb and Andrew van der Vlies', Full Particulars: A Podcast on Historical Fiction (23rd June 2021)


In this first episode of David Attwell's monthly podcast, Full particulars, David hosts Zoë Wicomb reading from her new novel, Still Life (Umuzi, 2020) and discusses historical (meta)fiction with Andrew van der Vlies, Professor of English at the University of Adelaide. Andrew is the editor of Wicomb's collection of nonfiction, Race, nation and translation: South African essays, 1990-2013 (Yale University Press, 2018).​​


AHRC Arts Humanities
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