'R. G. (Guy) Howarth (1906-74) was a poet, scholar, teacher and advocate for Australian literature. He was foundation editor of Southerly from 1939 to 1956. From 1955 to 1971 he was Arderne Professor of English Literature in the University of Cape Town, a position he accepted after he was passed over for the prestigious Challis Chair at Sydney University in a disappointment that stayed with him to his premature end.
'In Cape Town Howarth continued his research on English and Australian literature, and began to teach South African writing. In 'Sisters of the South' (1958) he made a case for comparing Australian, New Zealand and South African literature. He introduced a course called Imaginative Writing which J.M. Coetzee took as a student. In Youth (2002), Coetzee's protagonist remembers: 'Howarth, who is an Australian, seems to have taken a liking to him, he cannot see why.' Howarth introduced Coetzee and other UCT students to Australian writers. He encouraged Coetzee to approach Prof Joseph Jones at the University of Texas at Austin about graduate study. Today Coetzee's archive sits with both Howarth's and Jones's in the Harry Ransom Center at UTA.
'Jones saw in Howarth the avatar of 'a new-type literary historian' who would be polymathically able to approach 'all literature in English-as a reticulated if not yet wholly integrated world-phenomenon'. For Coetzee, Howarth is an example of a teacher who 'may not have much of inherent significance to convey' yet can still 'exert a shaping influence on his students'. This long legacy re-opens the question of what happened in Sydney in 1951 where a road blocked for Howarth became a road ahead elsewhere.' (Publication abstract)