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Prof Michael Green

Professor in English and Creative Writing

Department: Humanities

Michael was promoted to Professor and Head of English at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, then Senior Professor, before being appointed as Head of the university’s School of Literary Studies, Media, and Creative Arts before joining Northumbria University.

Michael GreenMichael was born and raised in Natal, South Africa. He spent a year in California as an exchange student and then supported his undergraduate studies at the University of Natal in Durban as a fireman on the railways. He completed his studies on a range of scholarships which took him to Stanford for his Masters and then York University where he completed his D.Phil.

He lectured in Johannesburg before being appointed to the Department of English at the University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal). As a student and lecturer he performed regularly as a singer songwriter, drawing more attention from the apartheid-era Security police than the music industry; an album of original songs, White Eyes, was banned from air play.

He spent a year at the School of Oriental and African Studies as a Commonwealth Fellow, and was an Exchange Professor at the University of Texas in Austin. He has twice won the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Distinguished Teacher Award – the second award being for the initiation and implementation of an undergraduate and postgraduate study track in creative writing - and was awarded the University Book Prize for his first novel, Sinking. He has served as the chair of the UKZN Press committee, is on the board of several journals, and is a reader for several publishing houses. One of the founders of the international Poetry Africa and Time of the Writer Festivals held annually in Durban, he initiated the creative writing programme in Westville Prison linked to these festivals. He served two terms as Chair of the Association of University English Teachers of Southern Africa.

Michael was promoted to Professor and Head of English at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, then Senior Professor, before being appointed as Head of the university’s School of Literary Studies, Media, and Creative Arts. He held this position until joining Northumbria University with the aim of returning to researching, teaching, and writing. In February 2009 he was inducted into the Society of the Fellows of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in recognition of distinguished academic achievements. This honour is conferred for life.  In 2010 his second novel, For the Sake of Silence, won the Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose, awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa in recognition of the radical late nineteenth and early twentieth-century liberal and pacifist who opposed racism, campaigned for women’s rights and was an advocate of literature as a vehicle for engagement in broader social issues.

Michael serves as an external examiner for Research Masters and Doctorates at a range of national and international universities. He is a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College and a project evaluator and individual ratings referee for the South African National Research Foundation. 

He has recently been awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship for a practice-led research project (completing a new novel) and has been instrumental in winning funding bids to support the university’s engagement with the creative industries. This includes a partnership with the regional writing agency, New Writing North, which will help support the Northern Writers Awards and various literary events in the North East.  Michael was recently appointed the Business and Engagement Lead for the Department of Humanities.

Campus Address

Northumbria University
Lipman 417A
Newcastle upon Tyne

0191 227 3492


BA Honours (University of Natal) MA (Stanford) DPhil (York)

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Michael has taught across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, focusing particularly on South African and postcolonial literature, literary theory, modernism, and increasingly, creative writing. At Northumbria University he teaches in the Creative Writing Masters Degree and supervises a number of doctorates in creative writing.

He has, to date, published three books, thirteen chapters in books, twenty seven full-length articles in peer reviewed journals, and a number of pieces of creative writing.

Michael’s study of the uses of history in fiction, Novel Histories, is widely cited, and has been called ‘compulsory reading for anyone interested in the details of theories of fictional treatments of history. ’ Stephen Clingman, Head of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, states that ‘not least for its central idea, and its wide-ranging and provocative discussion, this is a book that will have made a “difference”’. Novel Histories went into a second print run. He has also published two works of historical fiction under the name Michael Cawood Green, Sinking: A Verse Novella and For the Sake of Silence.

Critical reaction to Sinking was widespread in South Africa, with the eminent poet Lionel Abrahams praising the `quality and variety of the verse’ and concluding that ‘readers ... may well find Sinking interesting and even exciting as a pioneering exploit in South African post-literary post-modernism’. The poet Andrew Johnson called the book ‘a ground-breaking work, which may provide clues to other poets as to how to deal with the larger sweep of things without becoming stuffily portentous or fussily fragmentary’. It was shortlisted for several literary awards and won the University of Natal Book Prize. Selections from the verse novel appear in the major South African poetry anthologies and it has been produced as a radio play and a dance drama. The novel has been taught as a set work at the University of Texas in Austin, Columbia University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

For the Sake of Silence has been endorsed by Nobel Laureate J M Coetzee who writes, ‘Of the Trappist enterprise in nineteenth-century South Africa, with all its passionate personal rivalries and Byzantine internal politics, Michael Cawood Green has made a work of history cum fiction that will grip and sometimes amaze the reader.’ The novel has been widely – and positively – reviewed in South Africa and the UK, including a full page and a quarter in the TLS in which Andrew van der Vlies calls the novel, ‘An extraordinary story of religious passion, missionary zeal and political machination...  Cawood Green's engaging and original fiction illuminates a little-known aspect of colonial history. It shows - and enacts - how European ways of looking led to the distorted reflections we are only now beginning to understand’. Other comments on For the Sake of Silence which illustrate my research interests include: “As a book that speaks to the muteness of history, one that ruptures the silence of time past, and further, as a book that talks so very eloquently about those who would not speak at all, it is a unique literary event in South Africa” (Sunday Times). In 2010 For the Sake of Silence was awarded the Olive Schreiner Prize, the citation calling it ‘a tour de force of artistic composition... It is wonderful history, and spell-binding drama.’

The novel has also had considerable impact in the broader social environment including helping economic uplift in economically depressed areas, expanding heritage projects, and feeding into the Beatification process of its real-life protagonist.

Sponsors and Collaborators

New Writing North

Key Publications

2010. (As Michael Cawood Green). For the Sake of Silence. London: Quartet Books, 558 pp. ISBN 978 0 7043 7198 9
2008. (As Michael Cawood Green). For the Sake of Silence. Roggebaai: UMUZI (South African imprint of Random House (Pty) Ltd), 558 pp. ISBN 978-1-4152-0045-2
1997. Novel Histories: Past, Present, and Future in South African Fiction. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 319 pp. ISBN 1-86814-000-0
1997. (As Michael Cawood Green). Sinking: A Verse Novella. London and Johannesburg: Penguin, 164 pp. ISBN 0 140 58790 X

2012. ‘The experimental line in fiction’. In: The Cambridge History of South African Literature. Editors David Attwell and Derek Attridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 779-799. ISBN 978-0-521-19928-5
2009. ‘Exorcising the Past: Voices for the Present’. In: Religion and Spirituality in South Africa: New Perspectives. Editor:  Duncan Brown. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 167-190.
2008. ‘Deplorations: Coetzee, Costello and Doubling the N’. In: Postcolonialism: South/African Perspectives. Editor: Michael Chapman. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 125-148.

PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLES (all full-length, single-authored papers):
2012. `The Politics of Loving: Fugard and the Metropolis', The English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of English Studies, Golden Jubilee Commemorative Edition – June 2012, ISSN: Print 1013-1752/Online 1753-5360, 35-48.
2012. ‘Professing Silence: Imaginative Writing and the Academy (Inaugural lecture as Professor of Creative Writing)’, New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing. Vol 9, Issue 3, 319—330.
2008. ‘Translating the Nation: From Plaatje to Mpe’, Journal of Southern African Studies Vol. 34 No. 2 (June), pp.325-342.
2007. ‘The Future in the Post: Utopia and the Fiction of the New South Africa’, Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik (a special issue entitled ‘The Disappearance of Utopia?’ edited by Jochen Petzold (Universität Freiburg), Würzburg, vol. 1, 69-85.
2007. ‘The Bitter History of Sweetness: Metaphor and Materiality in Daphne Rooke’s Ratoons’. English in Africa Vol. 34 No. 1 May  43-57.
2006. ‘A letter from “the other side of silence”: Dludlushe Sondzaba and the Trappist Mission in East Griqualand’, Missionalia, Vol 34 no 2 & 3 (August & November), 182-200.
2006. ‘Deplorations’. English in Africa Vol. 33 No. 2 October , 135-158.
2006. ‘Generic Instability and the National Project: History, Nation, and Form in Sol T. Plaatje’s Mhudi’, Research in African Literatures, Vol. 37, No. 4 Winter, pp 34- 47.
2005. ‘Translating the Nation: Phaswane Mpe and the Fiction of Post-Apartheid’. Scrutiny2. Vol. 10 No. 1, 3-16.  (Title of Issue,  ‘Translating the Nation’, taken from this paper.)

2008. ‘Music for a New Society’. Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. Vol. 1 No. 1. October (commissioned for the inaugural issue). Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler (ed). University of Chester, 9-10.  ISSN 1756-5200
2008. 'Alone of All Her Sex’ (prose narrative version). Durban in a Word: Contrasts and Colours in eThekwini. Dianne Stewart (ed). Johannesburg: Penguin, pp. 19-22.
2007. ‘Fiction (for Cas)’. Fidelities: a selection of contemporary South African poetry. XIV, p. 51.
2004/5. ‘Alone of All Her Sex’ (verse version).New Contrast: South African Literary Journal. Vol. 32. No. 4. Summer, 48-54.
2002. ‘The Big Picture’ and ‘Ethics’. The New Century of South African Poetry, Michael Chapman (ed.). Johannesburg & Cape Town, AD DONKER Publishers, 386-387.

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To view my Northumbria Research Link page click here


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