Dr Hedley Twidle, senior lecturer, Department of English, University of Cape Town

How do we understand, imagine and reanimate the past in language? This course will explore questions of memory, remembering and time as these take shape in range of literary and autobiographical works including J.M. Coetzee’s Boyhood, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Jonathan Franzen’s essay ‘My Father’s Brain’. The lectures consider accounts of childhood, family and growing up, coming of age stories, narratives of education and intellectual formation, meditations on adulthood, ageing, death and commemoration. Through close readings of literary texts the course will introduce influential theories of life writing, autobiography and the personal essay; explore how the psychological and neurological basis of identity and being is represented in narrative (including some concepts from psychoanalysis) and read the relation between language and subjectivity in literatures of memory loss and dementia. (Essays and extracts will be provided).



1. First person singular: What is autobiography?

2. Testimony, therapy and the problem of confession

3. Memory and forgetting: the literature of Alzheimer’s disease

4. Coming of age, bildung and intellectual formation

5. Childhood, nostalgia and the terrain of memory


Recommended reading

Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

Doubling the Point extract.

Coetzee, Truth in autobiography

Didion extract

Coetzee, J.M. 1998. Boyhood: A Memoir. Vintage. Click here for Boyhood extract.. 

Coates, T-N. 2015. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau. Click here for pdf.

Dowling, F. 2008. Notes from the Dementia Ward. Kwela Books in collaboration with Snailpress. Click here for pdf.

Franzen, J. 2001. “My Father’s Brain.” In How to Be Alone: Essays. New York: Picador. 7-38. Click here for pdf.

Hirshon, D. I remember King Kong. Click here for pdf.

Kozain, R. 2008. “Dagga (An Extract).” In African Cities Reader, eds. Ntone Edjabe & Edgar A. Pieterse. Vlaeberg: Chimurenga. 13-22. Click here for pdf.

Leftwich, A. 2002. “I Gave the Names.” In Granta 78: Bad Company, ed. Jack Ian. 9-31. London: Granta. Click here for pdf.

Morrison, Site of Memory

Essays and extracts will be provided / circulated via PDF.



Date: 13–17 January
Time: 1.00 pm
COURSE FEES: Full R590.00 Staff & Students R295.00
Venue: LT3 Kramer Law Building UCT