Reflection for blog – Rick de Villiers
Rick de Villiers

My teaching is driven by two principles: that passion kindles passion, and that good teaching inspires learning beyond the classroom. The first principle is underpinned by the value I find in literature itself. Literature makes us more attuned to the world around us. It also helps us overhear ourselves when we think, which is the first step towards ethical reasoning. And while reading might often be a solitary activity, it connects us to experiences beyond our own. Part of the teaching vocation, then, is to communicate my personal enthusiasm for the subject that I teach, to ignite my students’ interest through my own. But the bigger part of the equation is to inspire a curious and critical cast of mind.

Quite simply, my job is to create a space where self-directed learning and self-discovery can take place. My teaching is therefore built around the cornerstones of openness and adaptability. Openness, I believe, is central to approaching a discursive subject such as my own, which deals in degrees rather than in absolutes. Virginia Woolf once remarked that truth consists of “laying together many varieties of error”. Far from advocating wilful misdirection, the statement suggests that there are many ways of approaching knowledge (for more on this, see my Open Access article on alternative assessment).

Openness leads onto adaptability, by which I mean a capacity to reshape your teaching in ways that are appropriate and inviting for your students. But I also see adaptability as a practice of constant revision and curriculum responsiveness, of honestly asking myself what works and what does not. The important thing, as the playwright Samuel Beckett urged, is to fail better.


Dr Rick de Villiers is a senior lecturer in the Department of English at the UFS (Bloemfontein Campus). He is a Y1 NRF-rated scholar and the author of numerous articles on modernism and South African literature. His first monograph, Eliot and Beckett’s Low Modernism: Humility and Humiliation (Edinburgh University Press, 2021), received an honourable mention at this year’s ASSAF Humanities Book Awards. For more information, see




T: +27 51 401 2240 or

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Neliswa Emeni-Tientcheu: +27 51 401 2536
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

Humanities photo next to contact block

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful, to better understand how they are used and to tailor advertising. You can read more and make your cookie choices here. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.