Carrol Clarkson's research interest is in the relation between patterns of thought and the products of the aesthetic imagination – literary writing and the visual arts most especially – in which these thought patterns seem to materialise. A work of art obliges the artist to make formal aesthetic and/or linguistic choices. What constrains these choices, what makes them possible, and what ethical and political forces might these decisions bring to bear on the social interactions that arise between writer and reader, speaker and listener, artist and viewer? These are the underlying questions in Clarkson's books: J.M. Coetzee: Countervoices (Palgrave 2009; 2nd edition 2013) and Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice (Fordham University Press 2014). At the UvA, Clarkson will continue her research on the work of Nobel Prize-winning author, J.M. Coetzee. She is also working on a new project 'Lifelines & Deadlines: Freedom of Thought and the Forces of Production'.
Clarkson has worked at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, since 2005. Besides holding the English chair since 2014, she also headed UCT’s department of English Language and Literature. Clarkson is the driving force behind the creation of ‘The Coetzee Collective’, a student bursary for students and postdocs who study the works of J.M.Coetzee. Clarkson is a member of the editorial board of Safundi (a journal of South African and American studies), Journal of Literary Studies and English Academy Review.