Forthcoming Events:

Past Events:

I started offering courses for UCT’s Summer School decades ago in 1985. I have listed below those that date from the present century and have included the Winter School course in 2017.


Imagining New York in Film, Fiction and Song

Monday to Friday, 20 -24 January. 15h00

Lesley Marx

Judy Garland celebrates the Easter Parade down Fifth Avenue; Gene Kelly rhapsodises about this “wonderful town where the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down and people ride in a hole in the ground;” Liza Minnelli dreams of waking up in the “city that doesn’t sleep” and Billy Joel sings soulfully of his “New York state of mind.” At once vital and violent, gorgeous and gaudy, this city has inspired writers and filmmakers to create work that thrills, horrifies and enchants. The course will start with an overview of the history and myths of New York and then focus on film adaptations of key novels by Edith Wharton and Henry James, groundbreaking gangster films of the Depression years and later innovations, spellbinding musicals and delectable romances.


  1. The Jewelled City of the North
  2. Old New York: The Heiress and The Age of Innocence
  3. Gangster New York: from Curtiz and Coppola to Scorsese
  4. Musical New York: from Broadway Melody to West Side Story
  5. Romantic New York: Affairs to Remember with Audrey and Meg and Cher

Adapting Shakespeare: Julie Meets Will

Saturday 25th January 2020, 10h00-12h00

Lesley Marx

Shakespeare, as Ben Jonson memorably expressed it, “was not of an age, but for all time,” and his work for the theatre, itself an ever-changing space of meaning in performance, has proved malleable and responsive to increasingly diverse times and places. Julie Taymor proved herself a brilliant theatre practitioner with The Lion King and an equally gifted film director with her biopic on Frida Kahlo. In her adaptations of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream she brings her rich visual sensibility to bear, as well as her imaginative grasp of the technical gifts of filmmaking, a powerful emotional engagement with the material and a daring will to interpret and challenge received meanings of a grotesque tragedy, an evocative and influential romance and a comedy that is, by turns, moving, frightening and very funny. This two-hour lecture will explore the meeting of these two gifted creators.

Leonard Cohen: Poetry, Performance, Pilgrimage

16th June 2019

A homage by Lesley Marx
As a poet, Leonard Cohen gave us lyrics that wove together death, desire and the quest for the divine in richly evocative ways. As a performer, he brought wit, elegance and immense charm to the stage. With ‘Hallelujah,’ he left a special legacy in a multitude of cover versions that unfold the varied layers of the song. Lesley will pay homage to the late and much-mourned troubadour through film and other media.

(This is an updated version of the talk I gave at UCT’s Winter School in 2017)
Duration: 2 hours
Adult R120
Early Bird R110



It was the end of a tumultuous decade and, depending on what you had heard through the grapevine, we were either looking forward to the dawning of the age of Aquarius when peace would guide the planets, or a bad moon was rising. 1969 marked the end of a decade that, for many, certainly in the United States, seemed to have changed the world forever. Flashbacks in the course will explore the short-lived presidency of the glamorous and controversial JFK and the shame of his brother on a narrow bridge in Massachusetts;  the first orbiting of the Earth and the first man on the moon; the idealised world of the Woodstock music festival and its apocalyptic counterpoint at Altamont a few months later;  Elvis’s comeback, the Beatles’ final curtain and their versatile and longer-lived emulators, the Bee Gees. Finally, in the social and political sphere of human and civil rights, the course will focus on the burgeoning voices of those who lived in and with a land that was ‘older than America’: the Sioux, the Kiowa, the Indians of All Tribes.


  1. The sense of an ending: From Camelot to Chappaquiddick
  2. “Fly me to the moon”: The Right Stuff
  3. From Woodstock to Altamont
  4. From Memphis to Abbey Road via Odessa
  5. From Alcatraz to Wounded Knee

 Recommended reading

Momaday, N.S. 1968. House Made of Dawn. New York: Harper & Row.

O’ Reilly, B. & Dugard, M. 2012. Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Wolfe, T. 1979. The Right Stuff. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

 Recommended viewing

Woodstock, dir. Michael Wadleigh, 1970.

Gimme Shelter, dir. The Maysles brothers, 1970.

The Right Stuff, dir. Philip Kaufman, 1983.

Incident at Oglala, dir. Michael Apted, 1992.



Byron called Venice ‘a fairy city of the heart’ and its allure as a floating fantasy of labyrinthine canals, graceful gondolas and sighing bridges has captured the imagination of writers, painters and filmmakers. They have also been lured by its secrets and intrigues, its images of decay and palaces crumbling into the waters that wind their way through the city. This course will start by exploring a range of work that has tried to capture the mystery, the beauty and the unfathomable strangeness of this enchanting space: from Shakespeare’s Merchant and Othello, through Ruskin’s fascination with the stones of Venice and Turner’s evocation of its light to Italo Calvino’s prose poems and the more recent unfolding of John Berendt’s The City of Falling Angels. The focus of the subsequent lectures will be on a selection of stories and novels set in Venice and their film adaptations. 


  1. ‘The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy’
  2. Gothic Venice: ‘Don’t Look Now’ (story by Daphne du Maurier, 1971, film adaptation by Nicholas Roeg, 1973) and The Comfort of Strangers (novel by Ian McEwan,1981,film adaptation by Paul Schrader, 1990)
  3. Luchino Visconti’s Venice: Senso (1954, story by Camillo Boito, 1883)
  4. Luchino Visconti’s Venice: Death in Venice (1971, novella by Thomas Mann, 1912)
  5. Henry James’s Venice: The Aspern Papers, 1888 (film adaptation by Martin Gabel, 1947) and The Wings of the Dove, 1902 (film adaptation by Iain Softley, 1997)

 Recommended reading

Boito, C. 1993. Senso (and other stories). New York: Dedalus.

Du Maurier, D. 1987. Daphne du Maurier’s Classics of the Macabre. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Mann, T. 1986. Death in Venice. Cutchogue, N.Y.: Buccaneer Bks.

McEwan, Ian. 2006. The Comfort of Strangers. London: Vintage Books.



Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan tower over most (Western) singer/songwriters and have created very partisan followers. Inevitably, heated debates followed Dylan’s Nobel Prize for literature. Should the award not have gone to Cohen? The question gained immeasurably in poignancy when the brilliant troubadour died, especially given that, even in failing health, he produced one of his most stunning albums, You Want It Darker. These two lectures are not concerned with value judgements, but to explore what Cohen and Dylan share, notably the wide range of literary, musical and cultural reference in their lyrics and their extraordinary capacity for marrying the sacred with the profane, invoking the ceremonies of eroticism and spirituality. Despite these similarities, there are significant differences in their approach to common themes of death, desire and the divine that emerge not only in their lyrics but in their performance styles and the personas that they adopt. In order to manage the vast amount of material available, the lectures will focus in detail on selected songs and the ways in which they have been interpreted.


  1. ‘Who by fire?’: Leonard Cohen (Saturday 5 August, 10.00 am–12.00 pm)
  2. ‘Blood on the tracks’: Bob Dylan (Saturday 12 August, 10.00 am–12.00 pm)




‘The death of poets sends a dark tone ringing out over the world.’ So wrote Jack Cope in his homage to Ingrid Jonker after her death by drowning fifty years ago. Three decades earlier, Eugène Marais used a shotgun to put an end to his suffering. In both cases the tone that rings through the years since their deaths has grown in volume, shading and complexity. The compelling and conflicting stories of their lives have taken shape in novels, poems, biographies, recorded memories, stage plays and films. This course will explore the fascinating and frustrating lives of two of South Africa’s finest poets, and the ways in which succeeding generations have told their stories and forged their myths.


  1. Introduction: when poets die
  2. Eugène Marais: from dandy to ‘Diep Rivier’
  3. The haunting of Eugène Marais in film and theatre: from Ross Devenish to Reza de Wet
  4. Ingrid Jonker: from ‘Kabouterliefde’ to ‘Donker Stroom’
  5. The haunting of Ingrid Jonker in fiction, film and theatre: from Jack Cope to Jana Cilliers

 Recommended Reading

Metelerkamp, P. 2012. Ingrid Jonker: A Poet’s Life. Hermanus: Hemel & See.

Rousseau, L. 1982. The Dark Stream: The Story of Eugène N. Marais. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball.




Gifted, adored and consumed by the studios, the public and even their parents, the child stars of Hollywood’s classical years led lives that were both enchanted and cursed. Today we can watch their films on DVD and on You Tube and marvel at their talent, while often astounded – even shocked – at the kinds of exploitation to which they were subjected. This course will explore the Hollywood star system, Romantic myths of childhood, the meanings of cuteness and eroticism, and the ambiguous power of the talented child performer .


1 . Silent stars: the girl with the curls and the kid

2 . Lighting up the depression: Shirley Temple

3 . Strike up the band: Mickey Rooney

4 . Over the rainbow: Judy Garland

5 . Beauty bright: Elizabeth Taylor

Please note that the course sessions are 90 minutes in length as clips from movies will be shown.

Recommended reading

Ariès, P. 1962. Centuries of Childhood. New York: Random House .

Serra, C. 1998. Hollywood’s Children. Durham: Duke University Press .

Kincaid, J .R. 1997. Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press .




From Daniel Boone and Huck Finn to Thelma and Louise, one of America’s abiding myths is about quests or journeys across an epic land. Heroes, both real and imagined, either travel  there or there and back again (to plunder Tolkien’s phrase) on odysseys that expose them to their own best and worst selves. This course will start with a broad overview of literature and films of the open road (or river), before focusing closely on Steinbeck’s classic Depression novel about the Okies’ quest for Eden, Frazier and Doctorow’s very different but equally compelling novels of the American Civil War and Cormac McCarthy’s moving post-apocalyptic revisiting of the road myth.Where appropriate, film versions of the novels will be referred to.


  1. Hit the road, Jack: from London to Kerouac.
  2. The soul of Tom Joad: John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.
  3. Poor wayfaring stranger: Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.
  4. From Atlanta to the sea: E.L. Doctorow’s The March.
  5. After the end: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.



Films have always been happy parasites, nurturing themselves on novels. When the movies wanted to assert themselves as respectable art, they adapted the  classics: Oliver Twist, The Last of the Mohicans, QuoVadis, Birth of a Nation. Today the temptation to borrow from novels is still strong. In both mediums, love stories are beloved. Though words and film do different things with love, they can be equally captivating. This course will try to avoid the pitfalls of analysing the relationship between film and novel in terms of ‘fidelity to the original’. It will examine the creative process of interpretation that occurs when one form is adapted to another. The texts chosen are multi-layered period romances that frame their stories within wider social, political, moral or religious contexts. Participants will engage with the many ways in which words and film are able to tell complex stories.


  1. ‘It wasn’t as good as the novel’: the revolt against hierarchies.
  2. Epic passions: Gone with the Wind (Mitchell,Howard and Fleming).
  3. Sumptuous seductions: The Age of Innocence (Wharton, Cocks and Scorsese).
  4. Risking difference: The End of the Affair (Greene and Jordan).

5. Stereoscopic vision: The French Lieutenant’sWoman (Fowles, Pinter and Reisz).