Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Arts in Society

Keynote lecture - ANDREW VAN DER VLIES: "Remembering the Future (Just) Past" (Eternal Presents and Resurfacing Futures)

When:Fr 29-10-2021 10:15 - 11:30

This keynote lecture is part of the Netherlands Research School for Literaty Studies (OSL) workshop Eternal Presents and Resurfacing Futures: Postcolonial/Postsocialist Dynamics of Time and Memory in Literature and Art


“Modern political consciousness is [...] essentially schizophrenic”, Loralea Michaelis (1999) observed in an essay published twenty years ago but still bracingly compelling; “we are either political and beyond disappointment,” she writes, “or disappointed andbeyond politics.”iIn 1999, the year of her essay’s publication, South Africa transitioned from the one-term presidency of Nelson Mandela to an uncertain future that would end up being more socio-politically unstable than hoped for during the first five years of the new democracy. At this very moment, several of South Africa’s most engaging writers published books that treated, in fascinating ways, what David Scott (2014) calls “the irreversibly lapsed time of our former anticipations of political futurity.”

I want to revisit a handful of these texts—J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and Breyten Breytenbach’s Dog Heart (both 1999), Zoë Wicomb’s David’s Story and Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness (both 2000)—to ask what theoretical and methodological insights into our ongoing, complexly entangled understandings of agency, history, and temporality, they offer, viewed from the vantage of their first publication in that curious cusp-time between the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11, and the rise of the discourse of the ‘War on Terror’. “The Not-Yet-Conscious”, writes Ernst Bloch (1959 [1986]), “is admittedly just as much a preconscious as is the unconscious of repressedness and forgottenness”; “by no means subordinated to the manifest consciousness of today,” it is rather “the preconscious of what is to come, the psychological birthplace of the New.”iiOf what were these texts “not-yet-conscious”, and of what do their thematic and formal treatments of memory, struggle, and utopia continue to speak?

About the speaker

Andrew van der Vlies is Professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide, Australia, and Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. He is author of scholarly articles and chapters on South African literature, visual culture, gender studies, and print culture, as well as the books South African Textual Cultures (2007) and Present Imperfect: Contemporary South African Writing (2017). He is editor of Print, Text, and Book Cultures in South Africa (2012), Zoë Wicomb’s Race, Nation, and Translation: South African Essays (2018), and co-editor of South African Writing in Transition (2019). He is currently working on a new critical edition of Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm (1883) and co-editing a number of essay collections with collaborators in the UK and South Africa.


To attend this keynote lecture, please register on the OSL website.