The Department celebrates the graduation of two of our PhD students this month

27 Jun 2018
Rosa Lyster & Tara Leverton's PhD Grad. 2018
27 Jun 2018


Dr Rosa Lyster’s thesis, A History of Apartheid Censorship Through the Archive, was described by one examiner as ‘as close to an ideal PhD as I have ever encountered’, and commended for its ‘substantial contribution to South African literary scholarship and the study of censorship’. Read an interview with Rosa on her project by PEN South Africa

Dr Tara Leverton’s research into Madmen and Mad Money: Psychological Disability and Economics in Medieval and Early Modern Literature was commended as ‘well-conceived, well-researched and well-argued piece of scholarship that undoubtedly makes a contribution to knowledge in (at least) three intersecting fields: disability studies, literary studies and, indeed, medieval and early modern historiography’.

Warm congratulations to Tara and Rosa for these excellent results.

The citations of both dissertations appear in full below.


Tara Leverton

Title: Madmen and Mad Money: Psychological Disability and Economics in Medieval and Early Modern Literature

Tara Leverton’s thesis demonstrates that the depiction of psychological disability in medieval and early modern texts dehumanises disabled people, reducing them to symbols of socioeconomic dysfunction. She observes that psychologically disabled characters appear in a diverse array of texts – religious poems, satires and tragedies – and are themselves diverse in age, social status, and narrative role. However, she shows, there is a discernible trend towards depicting ‘mad’ men and women as representing the economic anxieties of their respective periods, such as those arising from poverty and price fluctuations. The characters she examines come from as far back as scripture – the avaricious mad king Nebuchadnezzar – and as far forward as Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens whose bankruptcy drives him to shun society and sanity alike. Her thesis applies analytical frameworks provided by disability theorists regarding neurodiversity and sanism to medieval and early modern literature in order to expand and invigorate conversation around disabled peoples’ cultural history.


Associate Professor Sandra Young (English Language and Literature),

Dr Derrick Higginbotham (University of Hawai’i)            


Rosa Lyster

Title: A History of Apartheid Censorship Through the Archive,

Rosa Lyster’s thesis presents a history of apartheid censorship which foregrounds the censorship archive itself. The censors left behind a vast body of material relating to their activities, much of which has not been used or discussed. Histories of the system tend to centre on spectacular individual cases, providing an incomplete view of the censors’ activities as they sought to define where undesirability ended and literature began. Rosa Lyster argues that immersion in the censorship archive, and tracing the censors’ aestheticist assumptions as they developed, can dramatically expand understanding of the system and the national literary sensibility it had a hand in shaping. She shows how censorship’s effects have shaped current debates around literature’s function and value; and she demonstrates that interrogating the censorship archive enhances our understanding of the South African literary field today.


Dr Hedley Twidle (English Language and Literature);

Associate Professor Sandra Young (English Language and Literature)