Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities

An interdisciplinary collaboration between the Faculties of Arts and Medicine & Health at the University of Leeds

Dr Sam Durrant

Senior Lecturer in Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literature

+44(0) 113 343 4768

BA, Manchester; MA, Missouri-Columbia; PhD, Queen’s University, Canada

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the relationships between literature, memory, subjectivity and community, particularly as they pertain to the fields of postcolonial studies and critical theory. More specifically, I focus on the problems involved in memorialising the traumatic histories of racial oppression that continue to haunt our postcolonial era. This is the central concern of my first monograph Postcolonial Narrative and the Work of Mourning: J.M Coetzee, Wilson Harris and Toni Morrison (State University of New York Press, 2004), which was reissued as a paperback in 2006. I have published articles on a variety of South African, Nigerian, Caribbean and North American writers.

I have just finished editing Essays in Migratory Aesthetics (Rodopi 2007), the result of a series of workshops at Leeds University and the University of Amsterdam, which includes essays by cultural theorists and practitioners working in literature, fine art, film and critical/cultural theory. Rather than simply analyzing the representation of various historical experiences of migration, the essays explore the ways in which aesthetic practices themselves migrate between cultures.

I am currently working on a second monograph on contemporary South African literature entitled Postapartheid Literature: Mourning and the Reinvention of Community. This book focuses on the relationship between literature, mourning and politics; in particular it looks at the fraught relationship between literature and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996-99).

I have supervised undergraduate and MA theses in numerous areas of postcolonial and American literature and am currently supervising two doctoral theses on Michael Ondaatje, and one on queer modes of belonging in postcolonial literature. I welcome proposals on any area that combines postcolonial literature and theory in imaginative ways.

I am also the coordinator of a university-funded bibliotherapy project for refugees and asylum seekers, which links with the research interests of the university’s Centre for Medical Humanities.

Recent Activities

In May and June 2009 I was an international visiting fellow at the Flemish Institute of Advanced Study in Brussels, as part of a research collective exploring new directions in trauma theory.  During my time there I gave a plenary paper at a conference on ‘The Memory of Catastrophe’ and a lecture at Ghent University as part of their Literature and Trauma Series. Both lectures were presented as parts of a book I am writing entitled Postapartheid Literature: Mourning and the Reinvention of Community, to be published by Routledge in 2010/11.

Other recent invited papers include:

“Adorno’s alternative to both the secular and the religious state: mimesis and the possibility of community in postapartheid South Africa.” Conference on the Secular and the Sacred. Southampton University, September 2008.

“Gender, Mourning and Community in Postapartheid Fiction.”Cultural Memory Conference, Kent University, Sept 2008.

“Psychomping, qu’est que c’est?” Ferrying the Souls of the Dead during the Transition to Democracy in South Africa.” University of Newcastle, May 2008.

“The Artist as Psychopomp in Postapartheid Literature.” The Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, April 2007. “Mourning, Gender and Community in Postapartheid South Africa.” Cultural Memory Seminar Series, Senate House, University of London, February 2007.

“Mourning, Gender and Community in Postapartheid South Africa.” International Conference on Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness: Reflecting on Ten Years of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” University of Cape Town, November 2006.

“The Mimesis of Mourning in Postapartheid Literature.” University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, Nov. 2006.

“Coetzee’s Resembling Bodies.” University of Cape Town, Oct. 2006.

“J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man.” Coetzee Symposium. York University, May 2006.

“From monomania to indebtedness: Cormac McCarthy, Charles Johnson and the rewriting of America’s imperial destiny.” Disunited Empires Conference, Queen’s University, Canada, March 2006.

I am currently on the editorial board of Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writing and Southern African Journal of English Studies, and act as a reader for Routledge, Queen’s-McGill Press, several British and North American journals, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.



Postcolonial Literature (module coordinator)
Poetry: Reading and Interpretation
Memorialising Slavery
Postcolonial Bodies


Imperial Designs
Postcolonial Representations (core module for the MA in Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies)
Thinking Through the Disciplines (core module for the Interdisciplinary Colonial and Postcolonial Studies MA) (module coordinator)

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