David Attwell joined the Department in January 2006 as Professor of Modern Literature. He served as Head of Department from 2007/8 to 2011/12, and from 2012/13 to 2016/17. He took his BA and BA (Honours) degrees at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa and completed an MA by research on African literary theory and criticism at the University of Cape Town where his supervisor was J.M. Coetzee. He completed his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin where he worked with the distinguished Africanist Bernth Lindfors.
He has taught at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, and before coming to York, was Chair and Head of the Department of English at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He has held visiting professorships at the University of Texas at Austin, John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, the University of Stockholm, and Kwara State University in Nigeria. He is a Fellow of the English Association (UK), a Life Fellow of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies.
David Attwell's publications include two monographs on J.M. Coetzee, the more recent being J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing (2015) which was a Finalist for the Alan Paton Prize, South Africa's premier award for nonfiction. Rewriting Modernity (2005/6) is his collection of studies of African writers in southern Africa from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. With Derek Attridge he co-edited The Cambridge History of South African Literature (2012).
His main research interests are in postcolonial studies: postcolonial theory, critical formations in postcolonial countries, anglophone African writing, South African literature, and theories and practices of cultural translation.
David Attwell welcomes inquiries from prospective research students wishing to work on any aspect of postcolonial studies, but particularly anglophone African literatures, South African literature and literary history, and J.M. Coetzee.