When first asked to compile a list of research interests, not to just pour everything I’ve learnt about onto the page. There were very few fields, texts or papers that I did not enjoy, but the point was to draw a distinction between what I liked and what I was interested in. This was much more difficult than I realised, but I can now tentatively offer a short list of basic areas:
First and foremost, I am interested in the mechanics of narrative, and I find myself often falling back on narratology. For this reason, perhaps, I tend to favour the structuralists and formalists as my base of reference (which also naturally leads into the poststructuralists). The manipulation of narrators, protagonists, antagonists and the basic structures of fiction is fascinating, both for the relative correspondence between genres and the differences in representation and expression across individual texts. I love how the neat sets of rules are often broken, disrupted or completely annihilated, all within the basic tenets of structure and form. The poststructuralists have taught me to value these disruptions and the elasticity of literature, while the structuralists remind me that even breaking the rules has rules of its own.
I am also particularly drawn to genre fiction, specifically Gothic and Crime Fiction. My Honours essay was on the hero-villain binary in Deon Meyer’s crime thriller novels, and my Master’s project is on modern Gothic offerings and their relation to history (see Current Project for more details).
Furthermore, villains and the representation of evil hold a particular fascination for me. If literature is the reflection of how humans see themselves, then the ways in which we characterise darkness, cruelty and evil holds particular importance. In line with this particular area comes an interest in the grotesque, notions of good and evil and the use and subversion of grand narratives. I have found JJ Cohen’s Monster Theory to be invaluable.
Thanks to my Honours Literary Theory paper, I have an enduring preoccupation with the linguistic turn, and the concepts propounded by such theorists as Derrida, Baudrillard and Barthes creep up every now and then. The use and inspection of language in texts like John Banville’s Doctor Copernicus is wondrous.
In future, I hope to continue on the track of investigating representations of evil and villainy in different forms of fiction, but particularly in South African speculative fiction or South African Gothic fiction. These particular niches have not yet received much critical attention, especially in terms of how they represent evil in a country that has been marked by cruelty and atrocities for a very long time.