On the Thursday 5th and Friday 6th of October, international scholars congregated at Senate House, London, for the CHASE-sponsored conference, ‘Coetzee & the Archive’. This inaugural conference on the topic of Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee’s voluminous archive, housed at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, addressed a host of issues that are paramount in the contemporary humanities, including: the techniques and ethics of cataloguing, preserving, and utilising archival materials, the impact of material cultures in conceptualising mobility and inertia in historical and textual terms, the multi-modal approach necessitated by archival study, the digital past, present, and future of such cultural repositories.
The conference was animated by a lively discussion throughout by experts in both archives and Coetzee, and amongst graduate students and academics. The high calibre of the contributions not only offered new and innovative contexts, insights and material for the study of Coetzee’s works, but also fostered a dynamic of methodological self-reflection that pervaded the general conversation. The diversity of the proceedings was exemplified by the presence of the acclaimed contemporary artist Richard Mosse, whose recent exhibition at the Barbican, Incoming, was in part inspired by Coetzee’s works. The event closed with a public reading of The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee and a performance of Bach compositions by pianist Kathryn Mosley.
On Wednesday 4th October an exclusive group of CHASE students and scholars attended a special workshop, ‘Cartographies of the South’, held at the national Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Inspired by Coetzee’s recent seminars on ‘Literatures of the South’ in Argentina, this workshop consisted of a private viewing of the museum’s world-class cartography archive, at the Caird Library, focusing on map materials related South Africa, Australia, and South America. The immersive workshop, which featured a very rare opportunity to spend a day with Coetzee himself, began by riverboat from Westminster pier and ended at the Trafalgar Tavern, directly adjacent to the Old Royal Naval College.