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Andrew van der Vlies and Deborah Seddon secure British Academy Newton Fellowship

Dr Andrew van der Vlies, from Queen Mary’s Department of English, and Dr Deborah Seddon, from Rhodes University, South Africa, have secured a British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship to work on An Arc to the Future: Preserving and Promoting Orature in the South African Literary Imaginary. The project, which will run from March 2015 for two years, aims to promote recognition of orature’s importance in South Africa​ and to facilitate its preservation and wider dissemination.

25 February 2015

Funding will help Deborah work towards an online archive of South African oral and performance poetry intended to be accessible to local and international scholars of South African literature and culture and also to community groups and educational institutions in South Africa. As part of the project, Deborah will ho​st a workshop at Rhodes in 2015, and Andrew and Deborah will co-host a colloquium on “The Verbal Text in National Literary Historiography” at QMUL in 2016. 

Responding to the announcement, Deborah said "I am absolutely delighted. This has been wonderful news. Queen Mary University of London is home to a range of extraordinary scholars and I am looking forward to working closely with my co-applicant, Dr Andrew van der Vlies, and his colleagues. This is a project on which I have been focused for some time, within my undergraduate teaching, my own research, and within my community engagement partnership with local poets in my small university town. This award will enable me to bring all this work together and help make my idea for creating an online archive of South African oral and performance poetry a reality. I hope to create a resource for students, scholars, and researchers to use for generations to come."

Deborah is Senior Lecturer in English at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, and currently facilitates a community engagement group, Sisangqa Solwazi/Cycle of Knowledge, which brings together university students, secondary school students, and poets from the local community in Rhini/Grahamstown, South Africa, and on whose work this project builds.

Andrew adds: “The project will draw on my experience as scholar of South African print and text cultures and literary historiography, but Deborah and I will seek to involve a number of colleagues from QMUL with interests in postcolonial studies, contemporary poetry, performance, and digital archives. We all look forward to working with Deborah on this very timely, important, and exciting venture.”



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