The confessio of an academic Ahab: or, how I sank my own disciplinary ship

De Kock, Leon (2012-11)

Inaugural lecture delivered on 19 November 2012.


Leon de Kock matriculated at Mayfair High School, Johannesburg, in 1973. In 1974 he enrolled at the former Rand Afrikaans University, now the University of Johannesburg, to read for a BA in law, completing a BA Honours in English in 1978. After six years full time in journalism, he re-joined academia when a British Council scholarship enabled him to read Commonwealth, American and African Literature at the University of Leeds. Upon his return to South Africa from Leeds in 1984, he was appointed as lecturer in the department of English at the University of South Africa (UNISA), where he eventually became a full professor. In 2007/2008, he was appointed – after 22 years of service at UNISA – as Head of the School of Literature and Language Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, assuming the position of personal professor. At Wits he also convened and expanded the creative writing programme. In 2010 he accepted a chair in English at Stellenbosch University. He has published widely, producing 37 accredited scholarly articles to date, with more in the pipeline, as well as 10 accredited book chapters, a monograph, several book-length works of literary translation, a novel, and three volumes of poetry. He has also edited literary works. His awards include the Pringle Prize (for poetry, 1995, and for best scholarly article, 2011), the SA Translators’ Institute for Outstanding Translation (for Triomf, 2000), the SA Literary Awards (SALA) prize for literary translation, the Chancellor’s Prize for Research, UNISA (twice), and the Council of Editors of Learned Journals’ (CELJ, affiliated to the MLA) award for Best Special Issue of a journal, for Poetics Today 22 (2) 2001, South Africa in the Global Imaginary.

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