BEING PRESENT WHERE THEY WERE: DANTE, BUTLER, WATSON, MANN
Associate Professor Chris Thurman, School of Literature, Language and Media, Wits University
The lives of Guy Butler (1918–2001), Stephen Watson (1954–2011) and Chris Mann (1948–2021) intersected in various ways. These three writer-scholar-teachers were, above all, poets – and among their shared interests was the poetry of Dante Alighieri. Dante offered these South Africans an archetype, a poetic precursor, and a sense of vocation. They were inspired by his aesthetic invention and his spiritual vision. The lecture also considers the political dimensions of this affinity – and the challenge to white South Africans in particular, to borrow from one of Butler’s essays, to ‘be present where you are’.
Butler, G. Essays and Lectures 1949–1991. 1994. Edited by Stephen Watson. Cape Town: David Philip.
Cullinan, P. and Watson, S. (eds). 2005. Dante in South Africa. Cape Town: UCT Centre for Creative Writing.
Thurman, C. 2010. Guy Butler: Reassessing a South African Literary Life. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.