I am a graduate of the Universities of Cape Town and Edinburgh, where I was a Research Fellow in English and began teaching while completing my PhD, published as Dickens and Religion. After a spell as Staff Tutor for the OU in Scotland I was appointed Lecturer and Chair of the popular Nineteenth Century Novel course. My interest in Victorian fiction continued while I began developing my interest in postcolonial literature, an area I introduced to our curriculum. My subsequent long career with the OU reflects my commitment to its ideals. I was promoted to a Chair in 1999 and to Emeritus Professor of Literature in 2010.
My research interests have ranged from Victorian fiction to modern literature. I was the founding Director of the Department’s lively Post-Colonial Literatures Research Group and a director of The Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies. I published the first book on South African playwright Athol Fugard and edited three volumes of his plays for Oxford University Press, later producing a new and comprehensive study for Writers and Their Work. I regularly write programme notes and give theatre talks for performances of Fugard, whose work bears witness to issues of race and identity. These issues and how literary texts engage with them are central to my book Post-Colonial Literatures: History, Language, Theory.
Editing texts for Penguin Classics and Oxford’s World’s Classics for many years was accompanied by extensive reviewing for The Listener, Times Higher, TLS, and many other periodicals. My critical anthology, Literature in the Modern World, first published in 1990 by OUP, and revised and expanded for a second edition in 2003, has sold over 60,000 copies.
I have supervised successful PhDs on, for example, Dickens, Bessie Head, Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka and Zakes Mda, and I was co-PI on the AHRC-funded project, The Colonial and Post-Colonial History of the Book (2004-7). I initiated with Yvette Hutchison of Warwick University a Leverhulme-funded collaborative project worth c£142k (2010-2012), on ‘Performing Memory: theatricalising identity in contemporary South Africa’.
My essay ‘The Necessity of Error: Memory and Representation in the New Literatures’, began a series of papers and journal articles on topics linking memory, identity and narrative in postcolonial contexts, leading up to my most recent book Postcolonial Nostalgias: Writing, Memory and Representation. I am currently engaged in a semi-fictional memoir, and have been writing and publishing short stories in a range of journals, including Stand (UK) and Fiction International (USA).
I was engaged in the setting-up of the Singapore Open University, and was employed by the University of South Africa as an advisor on their post-1990 English Studies curriculum, and have acted as Assessor for the University of Stellenbosch English Department.
I was invited to serve on the Europe/Asia panel of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011, and on the DSC South Asian Fiction Prize panel 2016.
I am Co-editor of the Journal of Southern African Studies.
My extensive collection of South African theatre papers, mainly but far from exclusively about Athol Fugard, and including manuscripts, interviews, video, playbills etc has been lodged as an archive at the Lilly Library, Indiana University.
I have taught and lectured on topics ranging from Shakespeare to the present day at universities in the UK and abroad; I have written and broadcast for numerous Open University courses, from the Arts Foundation through to MA level, as well as on interdisciplinary courses.