SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

Zoë Wicomb:Texts & Histories

The One That Got Away - Zoë Wicomb
Yvette Christiansë, Andrew van der Vlies, Sue Kossew, Meg Samuelson, and Denise deCaires Narain. Keynote speaker: Dorothy Driver

Date: 12 September 2008Time: 9:30 AM

Finishes: 12 September 2008Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Senate House

Type of Event: Symposium

Convenors: Derek Attridge (York); David Attwell (York), Kai Easton (SOAS)
Invited speakers: Wayne Dooling, Andrew van der Vlies, Carli Coetzee, Sue Kossew, Meg Samuelson, and Denise deCaires Narain. Keynote: Dorothy Driver
Round table: Abdulrazak Gurnah, Elleke Boehmer, Dennis Walder, and Brian Chikwava

Zoë Wicomb's new stories combine the coolly interrogative gaze of the outsider with an insider's intimate warmth” – JM Coetzee

To coincide with the publication of Zoë Wicomb’s new book of short stories, The One That Got Away, the Africa Department at SOAS and the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York are jointly hosting a colloquium to address – for the first time – her cumulative contribution to South African literature and criticism. Following on the success of her most recent novel, Playing in the Light (2006), which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize in 2007, her hugely ambitious and innovative David’s Story (2001), and her stunning debut, the collection of short stories You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town (1987), this latest work from Umuzi, Random House (July 2008) shows the author once again on home ground: straddling the two sites of her native Cape and Glasgow, where she has spent much of her working life as a professor at the University of Strathclyde.

Wicomb’s fiction and criticism, with their attention to gender, race, and history and their exploration of the processes of language and narrative, engage with many of the most pressing issues of our time. Among the questions to be pursued are: What is the significance of Wicomb's theorising on race and hybridity, her interest in genealogy and local geographies, and her own acknowledged interest in and affiliation with J. M. Coetzee’s work? How does her fiction engage with the visual arts, and with issues of language, identity, home, and landscape? How might we read her ‘South African’ fiction in light of the various infiltrations of Scotland in her work?

The Colloquium will be held at Senate House on Friday 12 September: 9.30am-5.30pm.

The day before there is a public reading by Zoë Wicomb of The One That Got Away.

Keynote speaker: Dorothy Driver

Registration Fees: £30 Standard / £20 IES Members/concessions

  • Registration form in Word format
  • Registration form in PDF format
Provisional Programme:
09.30Registration and coffee, Senate House
10.00Welcome and introduction: David Attwell (York, Dept of English)
10.15-11.00Keynote: Dorothy Driver (Adelaide/UCT – Dept of English), ‘Zoë Wicomb: The Struggle over the Sign'
11.00-11.30Coffee break
11.30-13.00Panel 1: Cape Histories – Memory and the Archive
Andrew van der Vlies (Sheffield, Dept of English), 'The question of the archive: narrative, spectrality, and responsibility in Zoe
Wicomb's Playing in the Light'
Wayne Dooling (SOAS, Dept of History): 'Respectability and History in the Work of Zoë Wicomb'
Carli Coetzee: '"Give me back my original if it is in fact an accurate copy": Zoe Wicomb, limited access archives and circulating libraries'
Chair: Deborah Gaitskell (SOAS, Dept of History)
13.00-14.00Lunch break
14.00-15.30Panel 2: Gendered Bodies – Textual Histories
Sue Kossew (New South Wales, Dept of English), 'Crossing Borders: Patterns of history and representation in Zoë Wicomb's The One That Got Away (2008)'
Meg Samuelson (Stellenbosch, Dept of English), ‘Telling Stories: Genealogy, Voice and Memory in the Writings of Zoë Wicomb and Yvette Christiansë'
Denise deCaires Narain (Sussex , Dept of English), ‘“Everything spik and span and lekker”: the Language of Domesticity in Zoë Wicomb's Work'
Chair: Jane Poyner (Exeter , Dept of English)
15.30-16.00Coffee break
16.00-17.00Round Table
Dennis Walder (Open, Dept of English), Elleke Boehmer (Oxford, Faculty of English), Abdulrazak Gurnah (Kent, Dept of English), Brian Chikwava (London– Caine Prizewinner 2004)
Chair: Kai Easton (SOAS, Dept of Africa)
We are grateful to our sponsors:
  • Journal of Southern African Studies
  • Department of English & Related Literature, York University
  • Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS
  • Dept of Africa, SOAS
  • Royal African Society
  • Centre of African Studies, University of London

Enquiries and Registration: Jon Millington, Events Officer, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU; tel +44 (0) 207 664 4859; Email

Organiser: Inst of English Studies, Dept of English & Related Literature, York & SOAS's Department of Africa

Contact email:

Contact Tel: +44 (0)207 664 4859

Contact Fax: +44 (0)207 862 8720