As many readers of this column will know, when the glamour of my moonlighting life as an arts writer comes abruptly to an end each week — Cinderella’s carriage a pumpkin once more, the witty conversation and clinking wine glasses on opening night now a distant memory — I return to my day job as a university academic. I’m not complaining. Being a professor in the arts and humanities is a much better gig than cleaning up after a wicked stepfamily.

There are downsides, one of which is that telling people your occupation is usually a conversation killer. My primary area of research is early modern literature, especially Shakespeare; enough said. But it does have its advantages. For example, you know what to say when (white) people complain, as they are wont to do in the online comments below opinion pieces or when electioneering for certain political parties or standing round a braai: “Why does everything have to be about race?”..

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