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King’s English and the origins of South African liberation

by Gordon McMullan, Professor of English at King’s College London and Director of the London Shakespeare Centre

A little over a century ago, King’s English professor Israel (later Sir Israel) Gollancz –medievalist, Shakespearean and founding member of the British Academy – published a substantive commemorative volume to mark the Shakespeare Tercentenary of 1916. Grandly titled A Book of Homage to Shakespeare, it contains a hundred and sixty-six contributions – poems, essays, encomia – reflecting the pre-eminence of Shakespeare’s works in global culture: a poem by Thomas Hardy, a eulogy by John Galsworthy, a humorous ‘vision’ by Rudyard Kipling, a poem by a former New Zealand High Commissioner entitled ‘The Dream Imperial’, along with enthusiastic pieces by Shakespeare scholars and politicians from across the world.

Sir Israel Gollancz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Certain contributions stand out as expressing less normative world views – two in particular. One is a poem in Gaelic by future Irish president Douglas Hyde, in which (in a passage mysteriously omitted from the English translation…) he describes ‘Albion’ as ‘deceitful sinful guileful / Hypocritical destructive lying slippery’. The other is a piece entitled ‘A South African’s Homage’ by an unnamed writer who writes in Tswana, a language spoken mainly in contemporary South Africa and Botswana, also in Namibia and Zimbabwe – in other words, someone very different from what you might, in light of the array of overwhelmingly white establishment figures named in the table of contents, have expected.

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Book Review: Balint Matters

by Neil Vickers, Reader in English Literature & Medical Humanities

Balint Matters
Cover image from ‘Balint Matters: Psychosomatics and the Art of Assessment’ by Jonathan Sklar (London: Karnac, 2017)

Michael Balint is mentioned in medical humanities circles as a revered ancestor, much as one might talk about William Empson as a significant figure in the history of English literary criticism. Everyone knows they’re important but surprisingly few people read either writer today or even know why they should. (An important exception is Josie Billington’s superb Is Literature Healthy? – reviewed here – which devotes a chapter to Balint.)

Empson did theory before Theory, and Balint did narrative medicine before Narrative Medicine. Both men were at least as interesting as what came after them, and yet both have become unduly sepia-tinted with the passage of time. Part of the reason for this fading in Balint’s case has to do with the fact that his clinical examples are firmly rooted in the sociological reality of the 1940s and 50s. The world Balint describes is hidebound by class. As a psychoanalytically-minded medical humanist, I occasionally press a copy of Balint’s classic, The Doctor, the Patient and the Illness (1957) on MSc students, but always with the caveat about his antiquated case material. ‘Someone should update it,’ I whisper, as they saunter out of the room.

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