Welcome to Stellenbosch University

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Department of English

The Department of English focuses on the study of local and international literature written in English, and also offers elective courses in literary, film and cultural studies as well as creative writing.

For more than three centuries, the Cape has served as a passageway linking West and East, North and South. This conjunction of the local and the global, of time and place, consciously informs our goals in the Department of English at Stellenbosch University. In our teaching and research, we ask how – and why – modes of reading, representation and textuality mean differently, in different times and locales, to different constituencies.

We envisage the discipline as a series of transformative encounters between worlds and texts, a process of reading, thinking, debate and writing which is well-placed to contribute not only to our students’ critical and creative knowledge of ‘English’ as a discipline, but also to the possibilities for change in Stellenbosch, a site still marked by racial and economic disparity. If novels by Chimamanda Adichie and Abdulrazak Gurnah, poetry from the Caribbean, and articles by Njabulo S. Ndebele can prompt revised recognitions of racial, cultural and gendered identities, so too can fiction by Olive Schreiner or poetry by Walt Whitman open us to challenging points of view about the relation between identity and inherited ideas, postcolonial theory and the politics of the local. Our research areas (among them queer theory, critical nature studies, diaspora studies, life writing, visual activism, the Neo-Victorian and contemporary poetry) contribute to our diverse ability to position ‘English’ as a space of literatures, languages and cultural studies which engages a deliberately wide range of thought, expression and agency. We aim to equip our graduates with conceptual and expressive proficiencies which are central to careers in media, education, NGOs, law, and the public service. Simultaneously, we recognize that capacities of coherent thought and articulation can play an important role in democracy and transformation.

In the English Department, we encourage a collegial, inclusive research community in which all participants (staff, postgraduates and undergrads, fellows, professors extraordinaire and emeriti) are prompted to produce original and innovative scholarship. To this end, there is a programme of regular events in the department, among them research seminars featuring regional and international speakers; workshops on research methods, proposal writing, and creative writing, and active reading and writing groups. Such platforms complement the department’s vibrant InZync poetry project, and the digital SlipNet initiative (, enabling us to create a teaching and learning environment in which the pleasures and challenges of ‘English’ as ‘englishes’ can be publicly performed and debated, in Stellenbosch and beyond.

The one-year, residential BAHons programme consists of eight components. Six taught courses (3 per semester), with a compulsory research essay/mini thesis that counts for two modules (1 per semester). Each taught component meets for a weekly two-hour seminar. The mini-thesis is developed over the course of the year.

Overall, students take one module called 'English Studies'. A range of literary issues and texts is covered, among them: postcolonial theory and literature; auto/biography and life-writing; modernity, alienation and the crisis of experience; African science fiction; modern theory; the Victorian novel and the neo-Victorian; cultural studies, and South/ern African literatures. The entrance requirement is 65% in English 3 (or a suitable cognate discipline). ​​

At present, Master's study in the English Department is available in two forms:

  • a research thesis of approximately 50 000 words on an academic topic ;
  • a thesis comprising an original creative work, plus a reflective scholarly component. (Together, these must comprise 50 000 words.)

While there is no coursework on offer, MA students are part of an integrated postgraduate cohort, involved in weekly seminars, reading and writing groups, and training in research methods.

The Doctorate involves the completion, to the satisfaction of internal and external examiners, of a dissertation of 80 000 words on a topic selected by the student in consultation with the Department. The dissertation is written under the supervision of members of the Department. Students structure their programmes individually, in consultation with supervisors, and according to the demands of the research topic. Note that the PhD may also take the form of an original creative work, plus a reflective scholarly component.

The Department has identified a number of strategic Research Focus Areas, and all graduate students are encouraged to situate their research within these foci. However, they are also enabled by our wide staff expertise to undertake research within the broad field of literary and cultural studies in English. Prospective students should consult the departmental ​research page for the full range of staff research and supervision areas.

In addition to full time staff, Professors Emeritus and Extraordinaire may also be available to co-supervise theses. Entrance requirements and contact details are available on the departmental homepage.​​


Application Process