1st Edition

The Plague Years Reflecting on Pandemics

Edited By Michael Titlestad, Karl van Wyk, Grace A. Musila Copyright 2023
    288 Pages
    by Routledge

    288 Pages
    by Routledge

    The Plague Years collects scholarly and essayistic reflections on literary, visual, and sonic representations of the COVID-19 and other pandemics. These are placed alongside poetry and short fiction written in the first two years of quarantine or isolation. This range expresses the intellectual and imaginative struggle and ingenuity entailed in coming to terms with the rampant spread of disease and its emotional, cultural, and political consequences.

    The contributions are from diverse contexts: Africa (from Egypt to South Africa), China, Japan, the US, and Scandinavia. They consider some of the array of contemporary engagements: poems translated from Mandarin about the traumas of the frontline, Chinese calligraphic poetry printed on cartons of PPE, comments on the literary history of representing epidemics and pandemics, political analyses of the post-truth present, and the role of life-writing and gaming in an interrupted world. Given the generative and creative obliquity of many of its parts, this collection shifts how one thinks about the diseased present and the archival pasts on which it draws.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of English Studies in Africa.

    1. Introduction

    Michael Titlestad, Karl van Wyk and Grace A. Musila

    2. Masked Masterpieces: In R≡lational Folds

    Sally-Ann Murray

    3. ‘As others feel pain in their lungs’: Albert Camus’s The Plague

    Hedley Twidle

    4. Self/isolation

    Dan Wylie

    5. Plague and Cultural Panic: Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Masque of the Red Death’

    Laurence Wright

    6. Two Paintings

    Ingrid Winterbach

    7. Towards a Poetics of Disaster: Chinese Poetry in Combating COVID-19

    Yanbin Kang

    8. Ten Chinese COVID-19 Poets

    Translated by Yanbin Kang

    9. Ancient Chinese Poetry and Chinese Calligraphy in Combatting COVID-19

    Zhiyong Mo

    10. Will the COVID-19 Crisis Lead to a Fourth Wave of Neo-nationalism?

    Eirikur Bergmann

    11. The Room

    Kobus Moolman

    12. Fever Dreams: Surveying the Representation of Plagues and Pandemics in South African Speculative Fiction

    Crystal Warren

    13. An End in Itself: Genre, Apocalypse and the Archive in Deon Meyer’s Fever

    Devin William Daniels

    14. Plagues in Palimpsest: Historical Time and Narrative Time in Diane Awerbuck’s Home Remedies, Marcus Low’s Asylum and Russel Brownlee’s Garden of the Plagues

    Beth Wyrill

    15. HERO

    David Medalie

    16. Dust Explodes for All to See: Narrating the Actual in a Time of Continuous Disaster

    Kyle Allan

    17. COVID-19 and African Postage Stamps

    Damian Shaw

    18. Green Dream

    Maren Bodenstein

    19. Sonification and Music: Science meets Art

    Chatradari ‘Chats’ Devroop and Michael Titlestad

    20. Memory Book as a New Genre of Illness Writing: How a Ugandan Farming Mother Wrote about HIV

    Machiko Oike

    21. Two Poems

    Phelelani Makhanya

    22. Some Speculative Musings on COVID-19 Affectivity, Raymond Williams’ ‘Structure of Feeling’ and Zadie Smith’s Intimations

    Ronit Frenkel

    23. Active Thumbs, Confined Bodies: Eluding the ‘Insect’ in Times of the Plague

    Moulay Driss El Maarouf, Taieb Belghazi and Ute Fendler

    24. COVID-19: Between Panic, Racism and Social Change

    Omar Moumni

    25. Tick Tock

    Sonia Fanucchi

    26. Re-imagining a New Normal: COVID-19 Pandemic and the Changing Face of Social Interaction

    Josiah Nyanda


    Michael Titlestad is Personal Professor in the Department of English at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He has widely published in the fields of maritime, South African, and dystopian literature, and he is the editor of English Studies in Africa. His most recent book is Shipwreck Narratives: Out of Our Depth (2021).

    Karl van Wyk is Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He began teaching in the English Department at the beginning of 2021. His research and publication interests include postmodern historiography. He is particularly concerned with WWII alternate history and South Africa’s attitudes to, and representations of, apartheid history.

    Grace A. Musila is Associate Professor in the Department of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the editor of Wangari Maathai’s Registers of Freedom (2020), and the author of A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder (2015).