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The Child and the Story

Humanities Faculty Research Theme

It is generally recognised that the experience of a narrative involves a complex web of relations between storytellers or writers, publishers, the people or imagined characters whose experiences are communicated, and the larger environment in which those experiences are embedded, including the experience of the person reading or listening to the story. The value of the narrative in shaping experience, transmitting cultural memes and contributing to social development is widely acknowledged, even if difficult to quantify. As former president Nelson Mandela once succinctly observed: ‘A reading nation is a winning nation.’ Unfortunately, local story-telling traditions are in decline at a time when it is also widely acknowledged and statistically demonstrated by tests like the ANAs or the PIRLs that South Africa is facing a reading crisis. As a result, numerous projects are dedicated to improving literacy in the country, but though these are often admirably conceived and executed, they tend to be fairly limited in their scope and objectives, often focusing entirely on improving decoding skills in developing readers.

By contrast, the new interdisciplinary Faculty Research Theme is intended to encourage more wide-ranging academic studies of children and narratives, focused not simply on the acquisition of improved reading fluency but also on larger issues such as what children are given to read, what languages they read in, what ideas are being promulgated in their stories, how oral traditions feed into or are excluded from literary culture, how the narrative can address trauma or play a role in individuation and how young readers/listeners respond to, reject or appropriate the narratives transmitted to them.


Project leader:  Professor Molly Brown, Head of the Department of English

Distinguished scholar:  Professor Helen Yitah, Head: Department of English, University of Ghana

Postdoctoral students:

Ms Bonnie Kneen: In/visibility: marginalized (female and queer) sexual desires in young adult novels.

Ms Yael Barham-Smith: Shouldering the Burden: A feminist examination of Jewish fiction for adolescent girls



- Author C. Garnas
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Last edited by Jacoba OdendaalEdit