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Dr Christine Emmett

As Teaching Fellow in World Literature, I convene the MA in World Literature and run its core module, Fundamentals in World Literature. I also teach and lecture on variety of modules, mostly on topics concerning World Literature, Postcolonial Studies, African Literatures (specialising in South African literature) and sometimes Critical Theory. I grew up in South Africa, where I studied for my Bachelor’s degree in Publishing Studies (University of Pretoria) and my Master’s degree in Literature and Modernity (University of Cape Town). Thanks to a Commonwealth Scholarship, I came to the UK, where I completed my PhD at the University of Warwick.


My research examines how discourses of legitimacy – those ideas which justify or validate the rule of particular individuals and groups – become embodied in literary texts. In my doctoral research I particularly focussed on how these discourses affected the development of the novel in South Africa. In this way, I highlighted the capitulations and aesthetic strategies that South African novelists turned to when, faced with the pressure of social and economic inequality, their legitimacy as cultural authorities was called into question.

One article based on this work (published in Research in African Literatures), analysed South African author, Zoë Wicomb's depiction of racial passing in her novel, Playing in the Light. It showed how Wicomb highlights both the linguistic and economic underpinnings of racialised identity, presenting a radical departure from standard accounts of passing.

Since finishing my PhD, I have been extending the findings of my research beyond South Africa into the realm of World Literature. In an article for Literature Compass, titled ‘Inequality, legitimacy and disidentification: from South African to global modernism', I drew on WReC’s World-Literature framework to present a new reading of Camus’s The Outsider. The article links the narration of Camus’s text to three South African novels, exposing the constrained sense of agency that haunts these novels’ depictions. In this way it connects the representation of social inequality implicit in Camus’s colonial Algeria to the South African modernism of Nadine Gordimer, Achmat Dangor and Zoë Wicomb.

My postdoctoral work continues this transition into the field of World Literature, extending the theoretical constructs of my doctoral research towards representations of corruption.


List of Publications

2022 “Inequality, legitimacy and disidentification: from South African to global modernism.” Literature Compass 19.9: e12680. Available online: Peer-reviewed journal article.

2022 “Who’s passing now? Mobility, race and value in Zoe Wicomb’s Playing in the Light.” Research in African Literatures, 52.4: 133-149. Peer-reviewed journal article.

2022 Nadine Gordimer: Critical trends & Annotated bibliography. Contemporary Literary Criticism (Gale-Cengage). Available online: Encyclopaedia entry.

2021 Review of Niemi, Minna Johanna, Complicity and Responsibility in Contemporary African Writing: The Postcolony Revisited. Postcolonial Text, 17(1). Available online: Book review.

2017 “‘I am a father now’: Colonial paternalism and oedipal typicality in Shaun Johnson’s The Native Commissioner.Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 52. 2: 248-262. Available online: Peer-reviewed journal article.