n Historia - A significant new work on the intellectual history of South Africa
World of Letters: Reading Communities and Cultural Debates in Early Apartheid South Africa, Corinne Sandwith : book review

Volume 60, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



Internationally, much scholarship has been undertaken in recent years on the producers and material makers of periodicals and little magazines. In South Africa, only a start has been made in this field. That is why this new book by Corinne Sandwith, emerging to fill the gap in our knowledge and understanding, should be hailed as a significant new work of intellectual history in South Africa. As so little has been studied in detail, Sandwith repeatedly characterises her work as a project of historical "recovery" or "retrieval". In examining the literary and cultural debates in a range of South African publications including the , , and she aims to reveal "the existence of a vigorous, non academic and, above all, public discussion of literature and culture in pre- and early apartheid South Africa" (p 3). Importantly, her aim is not limited to cultural debates, but to the constant articulation of political debates through the medium of the cultural, or "the way that cultural discourse doubles as a form of political expression" (p 175). This is an investigation of literary magazines as a form of social history, which draws in the role of writers and readers, as well as editors and printers, and the wider social context. Sandwith sees this context as one of both vigorous debate and a shrinking public sphere; an era when political discussion was becoming more constrained and circumscribed. And, as she points out, while the story of censorship during the apartheid era is familiar, the "threat to free public discussion in South Africa in the 1940s came not only from the state, but also from big business" (p 81).

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error