A PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature described herself as being 'blown away for a full 40 minutes in a lecture given by Hedley Twidle, as he shared with his class ideas about the relationship between language, choice and consciousness.
She goes on to say: "He brought Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Jacob Zuma and a poem about an alien, knitting all these references together towards what felt to me like a revelation of sorts. Indeed I noticed around me many of those little 'um's' and 'ah's' and nods that invariably attend the rare moments when an audience is being authentically inspired."
Twidle works with students at all levels, from first-year undergraduates to PhDs, and is also involved in the department's MA in Creative Writing. Reflecting on what it means to teach English literature (or rather, literature in English) from a place like Cape Town, he suggests that this should be "a fluid and evolving thing: a practice that weaves continually between practical and theoretical, critical and creative, seriousness and lightness, private and public, work and play".
He was instrumental in reimagining the first-year curriculum, and in enhancing the training programme for graduate tutors. He's described as part of the core of the department, and on the pulse of student culture, which says much about the impression he's made in his short time at UCT.His teaching portfolio speaks of his energy and commitment as a teacher: and his creative and inspiring curriculum development, as well as his ability to take an intellectual lead and inspire confidence in students, so allowing them to feel valued and safe, but also challenged and intellectually adventurous.
Twidle is credited with stirring a sense of inspiration in anxious and uncertain first-years. He reminds them that to be intellectually engaged is to be involved in a war against clichÃ©: against the use of careless and desensitised language that leaves one blind to the diverse perceptions, opinions, experience and existences of others. He attempts to show that literary studies is about far more than analysing novels and poems for exam purposes: it is concerned with the medium of all our thinking: language – something that is mobile, dangerous, unpredictable, miraculous.
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The Distinguished Teacher Award is the highest accolade awarded to teaching staff at all levels within the university. Through the award, the University of Cape Town acknowledges the primary place of teaching and learning in the university’s work.