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22 August 2018
Prof Coetzee is retelling old stories in a new book
"Failing to Learn Doomed to repeat" was one of the bookworks on display.

The title of Prof Jan K Coetzee’s latest book, Books & Bones & Other Things, says it all. The book looks into the many aspects that have built our society by presenting in a new way the stories contained in old books collected over the years. 

Prof Coetzee is a Senior Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Free State (UFS). Books & Bones & Other Things was launched on 14 August 2018 and coincided with an exhibition of various “bookworks”   art installations by Prof Coetzee that feature old books, sculptures, artefacts, and fossils.
 
Book resulting from research programme 
   

“This is a book on books so the library is the perfect venue to launch a book on old texts as documents of life,” said Prof Coetzee.

For the past seven years he has been directing a Master’s and PhD programme in Sociology called The Narrative Study of Lives. His project, Documents of Life, from which this book came, focuses on a collection of old texts the oldest of which dates back to 1605.

“We live in storytelling societies and for as long as we can remember we have been telling stories. Over time the ability to produce books was born. Any collection of books can tell you a lot about your own life and the society you live in."

“I cannot read the stories of many of these old books because their narratives are closed. I have to re-narrate the books, change the narrative convention and present them in a way that makes sense to me. By combining the books with art and artefacts I want the books to tell their ancient stories in new ways.”

Book launches and intellectual discussions

At the book launch, Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research said: “What we have achieved with this launch and exhibition is unbelievable. We always try to create an intellectual space in the library.

“A book such as this is the pinnacle of an academic career. It is multidisciplinary and it looks at the world in a different way. That is what scholarship is about.”

A painting by Robert Hodgins was also handed over to the Johannes Stegmann Gallery, home of the corporate collection of the UFS, at the event. 

News Archive

Critical conversations for an intellectually vibrant campus
2012-02-13

 
Prof. Helene Strauss lead a discussion of Khalo Matabane’s film, Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon.
Photo: Amanda Tongha

Our Bloemfontein Campus is set to become intellectually alive this year with a series of critical conversations hosted by our International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice. The series of conversations promise an impressive line-up of prominent South Africans, amongst them Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Nobel Literature winner Nadine Gordimer.

The first conversation for this year was hosted on 7 and 8 February 2012 with a screening and discussion of Khalo Matabane’s film, Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon. The discussion, led by Prof. Helene Strauss from our Department of English, looked at the ethics of conversing across cultural and other divides.

Speaking at the discussion Prof. André Keet, Director of our International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, said it bodes well for the university that it will listen to and view amazing intellectual work. He said, "The critical conversations directly speak to the human and academic project of the university."

The next critical conversation will be hosted on 21 February 2012 and will look at the politics of reconciliation.

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