Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa, published bi-annually by Routledge, covers recent writing and re-publications in South Africa as well as topical southern African issues; it presents literary-cultural debate from a southern African perspective.
Current Writing is now the official journal of SAACLALS (the Southern African Association for Commonwealth Literature and Languages).
Current Writing presents the opportunity for contributors to continue and extend comparative connections between southern Africa – the initial focus of text and reception in Current Writing – and writing from other parts of Africa and the Commonwealth.
With the concept of postcolonial literature/s currently held in debate with the older term Commonwealth Literature, and given South Africa’s peculiar challenge to older delineations of ‘African literature’ – Africa in the West or the West in Africa? – the association between SAACLALS and Current Writing promises fruitful developments in textual studies.
“Current Writing is probably most attuned to the evolving and changing literary landscape of southern Africa, featuring over the years a number of superb interventions and analyses. It is undoubtedly one of the most highly regarded journals in the discipline, and remains on the cutting edge of literary and cultural criticism in the region.”
[Humanities Peer Review Panel on Academic Journals, Association of Science of South Africa (Assaf), November 2013]
Current Writing, a peer-reviewed journal, is accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training (South Africa) for university-subsidy purposes
21 Years of Current Writing
was conceived of in 1988 by four members of the Department of English
at the University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal) and its
first issue appeared in 1989. It appeared annually in the period
1989–1992, and has appeared biannually since 1993. The four members of
the editorial group, Michael Chapman, M J Daymond, J U Jacobs and
Margaret Lenta, designed the journal to focus on the literary and
critical enterprises in South Africa in their own day, which they
defined as the previous twenty years and onwards.
it was undesirable that any one scholar should sacrifice his or her
particular literary interests in order to undertake, at least annually,
the enormous amount of work involved in the production of a journal,
they decided that in the case of each issue, one of their number would
be editor in chief and the other three would advise and assist. This was
intended, and indeed has had the effect, of allowing the editors to
continue to research and write in their own particular fields, which
include but are not limited to South African literature. They feel that
this has kept them aware of the developments to which Current Writing
has needed to respond. More ruefully, they recognise that in an
academic system which does not reward or value journal editorship, they
must maintain a presence elsewhere.
Conference attendance and
other kinds of networking were shared out amongst the editors so that
they could get to know as wide a spectrum as possible of potential and
actual authors and critics. One development of this networking, not
anticipated by the editors but accepted and welcomed by them, has been
the obligation to offer editorial assistance to first-time authors
obliged to write academic articles in their second or third language. Current Writing is proud that it has helped many authors to achieve the publication which their ideas and enterprise deserved.
period when the journal began to appear was one of intense political
conflict, in which South African universities, authors and publishers
were deeply involved, and in which many non-South Africans felt obliged
to cut off all contact with the country. Boycotts involving the
publishing trade and the universities were tending to isolate South
African scholars, writers and readers from their counterparts elsewhere.
“South Africa has become estranged from the rest of the
world: apart from a small group of writers, mostly whites, few southern
Africans are known or read outside this country” wrote the first
editor in her Preface. She was recognising that the interests and
conflicts of the country were all-absorbing to people within it, but
less so to people outside, especially given the difficulties for
foreigners of informing themselves about writing in this country, since
none but the ‘white giants’ were available to them. A major purpose
of the journal therefore was to keep South African academics (in the
heavily censored cultural climate of the day) and their counterparts
elsewhere aware of the volume and complexity of literary production and
critical debate in southern Africa.
The difficulties of distributing Current Writing
abroad have been considerable, and by no means all the problems
involved have been solved. It is nevertheless the case that the journal
has helped academics abroad as well as at home to maintain a sense of
what is happening in the literary world here. From 1993 it has appeared
biannually, offering an April issue which is ‘open’, and contains
articles on any subject within the field originally defined by the
editors, and a second, ‘themed’ issue with a narrower focus:
examples are 7(2): “Orality in South African Literary Studies” and
14(2): “Translation”. Current Writing
19(2), which focuses on Antjie Krog, is the only issue so
far devoted to a single author. Guest editors, of whom the first was
David Attwell, who in 1993 produced an issue on postcolonialism, have
helped to extend the range and interests of the journal.
In 1999 Margaret Lenta retired from the Department of English and from the editorial group of Current Writing.
M J Daymond retired in 2005, and though both return intermittently to
do specific tasks, the editorial group now consists of Michael Chapman, J
U Jacobs, Judith Coullie, Corinne Sandwith and Cheryl Stobie. Duncan
Brown was editor in chief of two issues, and a member of the editorial
group from 2000 to 2008.