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French academics from the University of
Tours visit UKZN.

Two visiting French academics, Professor Philip Whyte and Dr Guillaume Cingal of the University of Tours, addressed staff and students at a UKZN seminar at the Centre for African Literary Studies (CALS) recently.

CALS held an informal lunch for the two visitors who were invited by Professor Bernard DeMeyer of French Studies and also a member of CALS Board.

The main purpose of the visit was to discuss the partnership between the two institutions which involves staff and student exchange and joint research among other co-operation and thus the visitors met the French discipline on the Pietermaritzburg campus, the English Discipline, International Relations and the Dean and Head of the School of Arts, Professor N Zulu. 

They also held a meeting with two University of Tours exchange students who are at UKZN this semester.

Informal discussion at the seminar included ideas on the sort of student, staff and research exchanges that could be arranged in future between UKZN and the University of Tours involving English literary studies.

Whyte co-ordinates the MA programme at the University of Tours and his field of specialisation is postcolonial theory and literature in West Africa. He has published a book on Ayi Kwei Armah and about 20 articles on African writers, Ben Okri of Nigeria, Kojo Laing of Ghana, Syl Cheney Coker of Sierra Leone, Syl Bendele-Thomas of Nigeria, Abdulrazak Gurnah of Zanzibar and Kofi Awoonor of Ghana.

Cingal is the co-ordinator of thirs-year English studies and PGCE (English). His fields of specialisation are postcolonial literatures, semiotics and translation studies

In his presentation Whyte gave an overview of the history of West African writing in English while Cingal analysed two South African poems, including Jeremy Cronin’s poem, Who. He emphasised the need to provide the historical and social contexts to poems when teaching them to French students.

The French visitors were very impressed by the collection of books at CALS, especially the Onitsha market literature, and the newly archived unpublished materials. They found several items they had previously been unable to locate.

‘Each shelf cries out for a conference about its holdings,’ said Dr Cingal. ‘Future research exchanges will certainly provide the opportunity to take this challenge further.’