I was born in Johannesburg, and given the names Lesley Glen Marx, a mix of Scottish and German (possibly Jewish), English and Afrikaans, ancestral strands that have infused my sense of who I am, a typically eclectic South African. I grew up in different parts of the Reef and Namibia—Roodepoort, Germiston and Windhoek. All of them created different facets of a sense of place. My family moved to Cape Town in my final year of high school and I settled in at the University of Cape Town for a very long haul, graduating from student to teacher to head of the English Department, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Humanities, founding director of the Centre for Film and Media Studies and now looking towards retirement in 2020.
Teaching has always been my best thing—partly because it involves live performance, partly because my students have been fabulous—so winning a Distinguished Teacher’s Award in 1992 was, perhaps, even more exciting than getting my PhD on the American novelist John Hawkes. He’s not the most famous writer, but his “late high modernist” erotic and apocalyptic visions appealed to me. Being taught to love American literature by my parents and teachers, I still find myself turning often to American themes, and they are now pervasively apocalyptic.
The Film and Media Department owes its existence, in some measure, to my parents who raised me on the movies. Long before I saw them, I could quote from, or give plot descriptions of, High Noon, Sunset Boulevard, The Pride of the Yankees, Gone With the Wind and many others. Exploring adaptations has become my cunning way of marrying film, literature and popular culture. My writing on these and other subjects drawn from the countries and cultures that have formed my imagination may be found on this site. They are all, in some way, performances of myself.