Johan Degenaar

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Johan Degenaar (1926-2015) was an academic, cultural analyst and political philosopher, with a strong interest in film.


Born Johannes Jacobus Degenaar in Ladysmith, Natal, he studied at the University of Stellenbosch, obtaining a BA (1946), MA (1948) and a D.Phil. (1951). In 1949 he was appointed as a lecturer in Philosophy and in 1969 made professor, later becoming head of department, a position he held till his retirement in 1991.

He was married Jetty Maria Houtman, and the couple had two sons, Hans Degenaar en Marc Degenaar (cinematographer).

His influence on South African theatre, film, media and performance

Of importance for this publication are his provocative teaching and many popular and talks on theatre, film, media, literature, art - in particular his analyses of contemporary films. This made him a cult figure among cultural organizations and thinkers in the 1990s, and a favourite keynote speaker at conferences and festivals.

He was an outspoken critic of apartheid from the 1960s onwards, and in 1958 he set up a hugely influential and famous monthly Gespreksgroep ("discussion group") at his house, and in the 1980s a seminar-type discussion group on literary theory on campus in Stellenbosch. These became gathering points for the more enlightened and rebellious academics, critics and artists at the University and the surrounding areas, a series of sounding boards for the ideas of other cultural and political theorists of the time.


Matieland 2015, P. 35.

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