Featured Faculty Members
CofC Home Page The Students Special Thanks Feedback
Department of Communication College of Charleston Home Page

Professor Patrick Harwood
Department of Communication


Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis
Professor Simon Lewis

Bringing the World Together
By Charles McCallum

English Professor Simon Lewis, along with thousands of other people, lined the streets in Tanzania, waiting for an old, open-top Rolls Royce. In that Rolls Royce, was the recently freed South African leader Nelson Mandela. Dr. Lewis, who was teaching in Tanzania at that time, was ecstatic to see the man who was very influential in his life.

Lewis grew up in South Africa, a place that made him very politically aware. His homeland has helped shape the way he thinks about the world. Ultimately he has been motivated by seeing racism in its raw form during his childhood.

"That is the thing that has driven me more than anything else, "Lewis said. "Because the extreme unfairness of that system is something that I cannot stomach."

Lewis says he is always trying to find ways to make people act fairly towards each other and believes people can't be fair if they write off a group as "other." He quotes Mandela as once saying, "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in perfect harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal in which I hope to live for and achieve."

Lewis attended Oxford, working through a tutorial system where students met with a tutor and produced eight to ten pages of work a week. For his Ph.D., Lewis attended the University of Florida and enjoyed being able to sit back in a classroom and listen to someone teach.

After receiving his Ph.D. in 1996, he was offered a job at the College of Charleston for his specialty in South African literature. Since he has been here, he has continued to learn more about the South African region and has enjoyed being in an African influenced part of the states. "Teaching has just been an excuse for me to learn," Lewis said.

One of the things Lewis finds most difficult about his research is finding time to do it. During the school year, he feels it is almost impossible to find the time. The summer, usually beginning in May, is when he is able to get the most research done. One project he focuses on during that time is Illuminations magazine, an international magazine of contemporary articles. The magazine has writers from all over the world.

Some of the stronger theme issues have been on South African literature. They were even able to get extracts from novels as they were being translated for the first time. These articles are very important since South African poetry is not carried by many people outside of South Africa.

Illuminations originated in Columbia, S.C. in 1982. Throughout the span of the magazine, it has been edited in England, Japan, and Tanzania. In 1997, after a four year hiatus, Illuminations re-emerged in South Carolina where it has found a home in Charleston.

Lewis is also currently working on a book that looks at African literature in comparison to English literature. He is arguing that we need to get rid of nationalistic boundaries when we think about literature. Since the origin splits literature into separate categories, it perpetuates racism.

Some of Lewis's future plans include finishing his book, continuing his work on the Illuminations magazine, and the Hallowed Ground Project. The Hallowed Ground Project is trying to raise funds for local filmmaker, Stan Woodward.

Woodward is making a film about camp meetings and religious revival meetings in Charleston. He is centering the film on one all white Methodist congregation, and one all black Methodist congregation. Both congregations go back over 200 years.

Lewis is trying to get a grant to allow the film to have sufficient funds to finish and have various screenings, and an academic symposium with various scholars of religion, culture, and music. The general message of the film is to blur the lines of segregation and allow that which is similar to join together. The film ends with a 101 year old horn blower that calls the faithful to worship. There is an image of him at the end of the movie saying people should come together under one horn.

For additional information on Dr. Simon Lewis, visit his College of Charleston website at www.cofc.edu/~english/Faculty/Lewis.html