Department of Afrikaans and Theory of Literature

Theory of Literature

What is literary theory?

This field of study goes back to the earliest known attempts to determine the meaning and value of literature. Concerned with questions of aesthetics and interpretation, it is relevant to all literary and artistic practices.It includes in-depth studies of poetry, narrative and drama and provides tools for the analysis, interpretation and evaluation of these forms of literature. In addition, it examines the role of the reader in these processes.Inherently interdisciplinary, it studies the relationship between literature and such diverse fields as linguistics, ideology, gender, history, politics, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, culture, the arts, the media and society. It is indispensable for an informed study of literature.

History of Theory of Literature at Unisa

Theory of Literature was introduced at Unisa in 1985, when Professor Ina Gräbe was appointed to establish a fully-fledged discipline offering courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.The Theory of Literature division has since assumed a leading role in general literary studies in South Africa by providing students from South Africa and abroad with opportunities to study contemporary literary theories. It also plays a vital role in research by publishing the international Journal of Literary Studies.

Aims of Theory of Literature

Theory of Literature at Unisa enjoys a distinguished history of providing quality tuition with the following aims:

  • To introduce students to all the seminal theories that have shaped the understanding of literature, the arts and culture during the twentieth century and beyond;
  • To provide students with opportunities to apply, test and evaluate these theories;
  • To provide students with conceptual tools for reading and analysing the different genres in literature;
  • To provide students with opportunities to read, study and analyse texts in the different literary genres;
  • To provide students with training in research, writing, reasoning and critical skills pertaining to literature, art and culture;
  • To provide students with opportunities for self-evaluation, group discussion and tutor assessment.

Related fields

Theory of Literature can be studied with great benefit in combination with the following disciplines: Literature in any Language, Linguistics, Speech and Drama, Music, Fine Art, History of Art, Journalism, Communication, Design, Film and Photography, Library and Information Studies, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Archaeology, Political Studies, Sociology, Philosophy and History.

Career opportunities

The recent growth of the information society has given language and literary studies a new significance. The reading, interpretation and evaluation skills these industries require allow people with qualifications in Theory of Literature to take up careers such as lecturer, teacher, librarian, information specialist, journalist, communications officer, media analyst, translator, script reader for publishers, researcher, literary critic, dramatist, scriptwriter, poet, novelist, researcher; literary agent and author.

For further information contact

The Head Theory of Literature, Prof RA Northover, UNISA PO Box 392 0003 PRETORIA Phone: 012 429 6700 Fax: 012 429 6794 E-mail:


This programme commenced in the Department of Theory of Literature in 2001 as a specialisation programme for students interested in learning creative writing skills (espesially regarding the writing of poetry, narrative texts and dramatic texts). When the Department of Theory of Literature merged with the Department of Afrikaans in 2004 to form a new department this programme continued and has always proved to be popular with students.  The programme was revised in 2005 and again in 2010 in accordance with new Higher Education requirements.

Students are welcome to contact the coordinator of the programme if they have any questions about the programme:

Dr Alwyn Roux, Tel: 012 429 6401


Mrs Zané Loftie-Eaton (secretary), Tel: 012 429 6308

Last modified: 2021/03/11