Features — 10 May 2012
Johns participating at literary seminar this summer

This summer, Dr. Timothy Johns, an assistant professor of English at Murray State University, will participate in the National Humanities Center Summer Institutes in Literary Studies from July 24-29 at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The purpose of the literary seminar is to examine J.M. Coetzee’s work and interpret the forms and politics presented throughout his multiple novels.

Coetzee, one of South Africa’s signature authors, has written numerous novels concerning his country’s political stability and the ethical issues present in the 20th century. This summer the National Humanities Center is sponsoring a literary seminar dedicated to analyzing the form and politics of Coetzee’s work.

Robert Pippin, the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought in the department of philosophy and the College at the University of Chicago, will lead the seminar by forming small groups of prestigious intellectuals from universities across the country that include Harvard, Notre Dame, Duke, the University of Tennessee and other prominent institutions.

At the seminar, Johns and other scholars will discuss Coetzee’s work in three-hour sessions and consult the characteristics of each novel such as the structure, perspectives, form and content. The scholars will also analyze the relationship between the various forms of Coetzee’s novels and investigate how these forms correspond to issues in the political arena.

“The significance of the seminar is to investigate alongside young, innovative literary scholars from around the country some of the larger questions that Coetzee’s novels raise, both for the study of literature and for the greater political and ethical questions of our time,” Johns said, emphasizing the importance of deciphering Coetzee’s work.

By attending the seminar, Johns will be able to use the knowledge and experience gained there for the future, including new ideas for his classroom and book.

“The National Humanities Center runs top-notch seminars, led by some of the most esteemed intellectuals in America. The experience will help my development as a teacher and scholar by learning different ways to approach Coetzee’s work and networking with other literature experts,” Johns said. “Also, I’m writing a book on South African literature from the 19th century. While Coetzee’s novels take place, for the most part, in the 20th century, their formal patterns often mimic earlier South African genres. By studying this material and participating at the seminar, it will help me engage with ongoing legacies of South African writing.”

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