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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

Prof Steyn to receive Jan H Marais Prize in Stellenbosch
2017-05-09

Description: Prof Jaap Steyn  Tags: Prof Jaap Steyn

Prof Jaap Steyn, who started his career as
journalist at Volksblad, later entered the academy,
and was a professor at the University of the
Free State for many years.
Photo: Marthie Kemp

Although Prof Jaap Steyn will be honoured officially for his contribution to Afrikaans as an academic language at the end of this month, he only became aware of his nomination after he had won the award.

According to this research fellow in the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French at the University of the Free State (UFS), he is grateful for the recognition. He has recently been awarded the Jan H Marais Prize for his outstanding contribution to Afrikaans.

Former Kovsie honoured together with Prof Jan van der Watt
According to a statement by the South African Academy for Science and Arts, the award was jointly made to Prof Steyn, who is probably the best-known South African language historian, and Prof Jan van der Watt van Nijmegen from the Netherlands. The prize money of R500 000, which they will share, will be presented in Stellenbosch on 30 May 2017.

Prof Steyn is a former Kovsie, who was a research professor at the UFS from 1985 to 1997, and at the age of 78 is still a research fellow. “After the announcement of the prize, I learnt that I was nominated by two of my colleagues,” he says.

His most difficult work was probably also his best

Over the past 50 years several of his publications, biographies, and books have seen the light. He believes that nothing one does is perfect. His most difficult work was the biography of NP van Wyk Louw. “It was probably also my best work,” he says. “The book I enjoyed working on most, was the biography of the author MER, or ME Rothmann.”

Prof Steyn has also received awards such as the Stals Prize, the Louis Hiemstra Prize, the NP van Wyk Louw medal, and honorary membership from the South African Academy for Science and Arts.

He says the staff in the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French are very friendly and helpful to still render him assistance as a research fellow.


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