Salford academic to present piece on South African modernism on BBC Radio 3

Categories: School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

A University of Salford academic is to present an essay on BBC Radio 3 on how South African-English modernist connections inspired great literary masterpieces.

Dr Jade Munslow Ong, a Reader in English Literature, will present The South African Bloomsberries on Radio 3’s The Essay on Monday 3 April 2023.

The 14-minute episode will chart how a group of South African writers associated with the Bloomsbury district of London in the 1920s impacted the lives and writings of English modernists such as Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West - both members of the artistic collective known as the Bloomsbury Group.

In the essay, Jade will tell stories of friendships, arguments and affairs involving members of the Bloomsbury Group and three South African modernist writers: Roy Campbell, William Plomer and Laurens van der Post.

Jade’s research in this area of literary history comes from her work as the Principal Investigator on the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project, South African Modernism 1880 to 2020.

Jade said: “One of the arguments that I make is that South African writers were producing modernist literature before, alongside, and in collaboration with, the canonical European and American modernists that we are more familiar with”.

“My Radio 3 essay will focus on the emerging Bloomsbury-based modernist literature of the period, exploring how without the South African writers, we may never have had masterpieces such as Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.”

Jade will also discuss the work of Solomon Plaatje, the founder of the South African Native National Congress – later Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party – who came to Bloomsbury to complete Mhudi, the first novel in English by a black South African - and how this novel should be considered a work of modernist literature.

The essay marks the end of Jade’s year as one of the 2022 New Generation Thinkers – an annual project run by BBC Radio 3 and the AHRC to appoint ten of the brightest scholars in the country to turn their research into radio features and discussions.

Over the last year, Jade has received media training from the AHRC and BBC and has been mentored by producers from Radio 3. She has appeared in an episode with South African Booker Prize winner Damon Galgut, another that took a wider look at modernism around the world. She also co-organised (with Salford colleagues Emma Barnes and Sanja Nivesjö) a series of events for the 2022 Being Human Festival using AHRC/British Academy funding ringfenced for the New Generation Thinkers.

Jade added: “I’m very grateful for the opportunities that the AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinkers scheme has given me and I’m looking forward to doing more with the BBC in the future.”

The South African Bloomsberries will air at 22:45 on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds on Monday 3 April 2023. It will later be available to listen to on catchup on BBC Sounds.

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.