English in Africa - Volume 35, Issue 1, 2008
Volumes & issues
Volume 35, Issue 1, 2008
Author John GouwsSource: English in Africa 35, pp 7 –10 (2008)More Less
The papers in this special collection derive from the truly memorable conference, "A World Elsewhere : Orality, Manuscript and Print in Colonial and Post-Colonial Cultures," held at the Centre for the Book, Cape Town, 2-4 April 2006 under the aegis of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP). This was the fourth in a series of regional, now known as SHARP Focus, conferences held in Sydney, Wellington and Kolkata. The idea for these non-metropolitan gatherings arose at a conference in Grahamstown in Aug. 2001, "Colonial and Post-colonial Cultures of the Book" as a way, in part, of continuing the conversation between Southern Hemisphere participants (with the hope that in time it would be joined by the book historians of colonial and post-colonial South America). Perhaps, even more important, is that such conferences not only draw attention to the enterprise of Book History, but foster the intellectual exchanges of the discipline, and steer the conversation in directions not envisaged by either the organisers or participants.
Author Isabel HofmeyrSource: English in Africa 35, pp 11 –25 (2008)More Less
Let us start with a story of a printing press - not a real one, but an imaginary one, a rumoured press. Reports of this press emerged in Durban in January 1897 where attention was focused on two ships - the SS Courland and the SS Naderi - which had docked in the harbour. Of particular interest was the Courland, whose passengers included Mohandas Gandhi, a lawyer, rapidly rising to prominence as a leader of the South African Indian community. Gandhi had been in South Africa since 1893 but had returned to Bombay for a short while to raise public awareness about the deteriorating political conditions in South Africa. White Natal society believed that the ships harboured cholera and that Gandhi was organising an "Asian invasion." After a five-day quarantine, passengers were allowed to disembark. Gandhi was spotted leaving the ship and narrowly escaped lynching ("Interview").
Author Meg SamuelsonSource: English in Africa 35, pp 27 –43 (2008)More Less
An extraordinary epistolary exchange, criss-crossing the Indian Ocean in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and animated by the circulation of literary texts, forms the focus of this study. My dramatis personae - Marie Kathleen Jeffreys, V. S. Srinivasa Sastri and P. Kodanda Rao - played remarkable if varied roles in the theatres of empire, decolonisation and nation-building during this charged era, while in the process briefly producing a community across the Indian Ocean. The prophetic comment made by Rao to Jeffreys in the epistolary excerpt quoted in the epigraph above invites an inquiry into these "intimate relations between South Africa and India" which I undertake in this article and in a set of related studies. Such an enquiry is made possible today by the "archives habit" Rao refers to : Jeffreys kept carbon copies of her correspondence in her letter books which, along with responses from Sastri and Rao, were carefully filed and bequeathed to the Cape Town Archives on her death. Rao's comment, along with this archival impulse, shifts this epistolary exchange from the private domain to the public, authorising the trespass into the intimate and affective sphere that I here undertake, and eliciting readings that approach the political via the personal.
Author Simon R. FrostSource: English in Africa 35, pp 45 –66 (2008)More Less
Books are not texts. This simple proposition has social implications. While institutionalised methods of critical interpretation are excellent at generating meanings from unified texts, they are inadequate for dealing with either the transmission of books or their social significance. What do books mean for their audiences, for the people whom the language of economics calls 'endusers'? And, although sometimes awkwardly and indirectly expressed, readers' comments, like those quoted above, deserve to be taken seriously, at least by any sociology of literary works. Some recent reactions by readers to Heart of Darkness can be found in the three hundred and seventy or so online customer reviews available on the Amazon retail website. The depth of these reactions may not equal that of the novella's critical reception, but they are more than a match in their breadth.
"An Inalienable Right to Read" : Unesco's promotion of a universal culture of reading and public libraries and its involvement in Africa, 1948-1968Author Amanda LaugesenSource: English in Africa 35, pp 67 –88 (2008)More Less
"This Manifesto proclaims UNESCO's belief in the public library as a living force for education, culture and information, and as an essential agent for the fostering of peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women." So reads the current Unesco Public Library Manifesto. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has, in the years since its foundation, attempted to shape the development of a library and reading culture based on certain principles envisioned as both universal to all people and fundamental to the future progress of the world. Yet the work undertaken by Unesco, and the ideas that have shaped the nature of this work, has largely remained unexplored by historians.
Author Diana Cooper-RichetSource: English in Africa 35, pp 89 –96 (2008)More Less
In many respects, the history of the book in French-speaking Africa remains 'terra incognita,' despite the work that has been done in this field, here and there, over the years. This paper presents a brief survey of the research that has been conducted in France, Germany and Tunisia on this topic.
Author Mastin PrinslooSource: English in Africa 35, pp 97 –116 (2008)More Less
How did indigenous African societies and individuals respond to particular kinds of literacy practices brought by Europeans to Africa? According to Jan Blommaert the historiographic "problem of the document" is at its most acute in the study of Africa because of the view of Africans as primarily members of oral cultures (Blommaert 643). Drawing on the examples of linguistic anthropologists such as Johannes Fabian and Dell Hymes, Blommaert suggests that the techniques of historical criticism applied to documents may need to be complemented with ethnographic, linguistic and sociolinguistic research that is sensitive to the changes produced when documents move across spaces and economies of social and communicative practices. He suggests that we need a greater sensitivity to the document as formally and functionally relative to particular linguistic, cultural and political systems. I take up this concern by way of a study of historical documents and secondary analyses around two distinct historical events : first, the attempt of a seventeenth-century Dutch captain to purchase the Bay of Natal on behalf of the Dutch East India Company; secondly, the attempts of Piet Retief, renowned Boer leader, to get a document granting his group rights to the same tract of land signed by Dingane towards the middle of the nineteenth century.
Author Russell H. KaschulaSource: English in Africa 35, pp 117 –132 (2008)More Less
This article will contend that the natural development of isiXhosa orature and literature, as with all South African indigenous literatures, ended with the arrival of European missionaries in 1799. The apartheid policy then exacerbated the destructive approaches to indigenous languages already in operation as it designated separate language boards for language development. These boards operated in the 'homelands' and were generally conservative, corrupt and oppressive. The manuscripts they recommended to publishers were for the most part only those that could be prescribed in schools. This resulted in the publishing of material that was parochial, apolitical and neutral in style. Often the material prescribed was written by the board members themselves. For instance, Lennox Sebe, erstwhile President of the Ciskei, produced an isiXhosa book entitled Ucamngco, for prescription, though it seems to contain little original material. Laurence Wright has shown that the opposite was true for English literature written by black South Africans and published internationally in the 1970s, at the height of apartheid (2004, 47). He describes, for instance, how one of the manuscript readers of Peteni's seminal novel, Hill of Fools (1976), rejected it as irrelevant and unsuitable for publication precisely because it made no reference to South Africa's turbulent politics. Throughout this period, however, only apolitical novels were published in the indigenous languages.
Author Deborah SeddonSource: English in Africa 35, pp 133 –150 (2008)More Less
As described by Duncan Brown, South African orature represents "our truly original contribution to world literature" (Brown, Voicing the Text 1). This paper explores how orature might be successfully 'written into' the South African literary canon whilst promoting recognition of its existence as an oral form. My recent experiences of the difficulties, challenges, and benefits of teaching South African orature within the Rhodes University English department, have alerted me to the urgent need for the creation of a student- and teacher-friendly anthology which would collect, re-voice, and adequately contextualise a selection of the seminal works of South African oral poets from the colonial to the post-apartheid periods. Much of this poetry already exists in print-form but, despite an increasing recognition of oral poetry through a number of endeavours such the Poetry Africa Festival, the Lentswe Poetry Project on SABC 2, the Timbila Poetry Project and others, South African orature remains marginal in the country's literary canon. It is largely absent from the curriculum in the literature departments of its universities. The need to redress this situation is crucial, but the process of setting up and teaching an undergraduate course in South African oral poetry, while possible, is complicated. The works of our most important oral poets are scattered in a variety of books, libraries, and collections. The usual process of drawing up a booklist of set texts is undermined by the stark reality that many of the books are out of print. Fully giving voice to these texts is even harder to achieve - CD and video recordings of performances (if they exist at all) are not easily accessed or disseminated.
Author Hennie Van CollerSource: English in Africa 35, pp 151 –175 (2008)More Less
In this article several controversial issues surrounding literary history as subgenre will be scrutinised. Literary histories are written with the intention of presenting a single unified image of the literary past. This necessitates a dual construction, for not only is the depiction of the literature a construct, but so is the depiction of the past. This implies that literary history is inherently hermeneutical, and that any presentation of the literary past is a narrative that eludes scientific objectivity. Despite this, a narrative is intuitively assessed according to its persuasiveness, range, comprehensiveness, and logic; that is, on its 'illocutionary force.' The focus of this article is on some recently published South African literary histories: those of Chapman, Heywood, and Kannemeyer. In keeping with the present emphasis on "literary fields," Brems is also discussed for his conviction that a literary history should ideally focus on literature as a social phenomenon (see Brems 2006).
Author Nick MeihuizenSource: English in Africa 35, pp 177 –186 (2008)More Less
Is it appropriate to think of editing in ethical terms? It seems to be taken for granted (not only in South Africa) that much depends on the individual judgement or predilections of an editor when it comes to editing a work. Thus the principal issue might be more one of taste than of ethics (Lister 2006). Yet as an editor one surely puts a sense of responsibility before personal idiosyncrasy. Responsibility to what? Many would argue (perhaps even those who feel less responsible to a subjective centre of origin than to the objective historical and sociological forces evident in the various versions and receptions of a work) that one is primarily responsible accurately to present the author's final intentions. This is one's fundamental duty, and a duty is an ethical responsibility; the matter seems cut and dried. Of course, as Paul Eggert, for instance, has long since shown, it is not. Consider the case of Ted Hughes's Collected Poems, edited by Paul Keegan. Keegan has to deal with the fact that Hughes changed poems from earlier volumes for certain later collections and selections but left them in their original guise in reprints of the original volumes which followed those later collections and selections (ix). Hughes felt no obligation to a telos of versions where latest is best, and the editor was in fact duty-bound to represent this confusing vision (confusing, that is, for an editor, who always looks for simplicity and clarity in the presentation of works). At least nothing is lost and everything is gained.
Somewhere in the Double Rainbow : Representations of Bisexuality in Post-Apartheid Novels, Cheryl Stobie : book reviewAuthor Neil Ten KortenaarSource: English in Africa 35, pp 187 –189 (2008)More Less
Bisexuality, Cheryl Stobie reminds us, is not an image, like women or whiteness, whose literary representations can be simply traced by the critic. Bisexuality does not appear in every narrative text the way that gender and race do, and when it does appear it is often not identified as such. Bisexuality often demands a special sympathetic lens to be recognized at all, even by (perhaps especially by) gay-friendly readers. Stobie calls this lens "biopia," a word that rhymes with "myopia" but means the opposite : the ability to recognize a wide set of behaviour that contravenes binaristic notions of sexual identity.
Author Dan WylieSource: English in Africa 35, pp 191 –194 (2008)More Less
The charming title to this fascinating collection of essays comes from Chris Tiffin's contribution on the Queensland Acclimatization Society. One of the self-proclaimed tasks of this rather obscure little organisation was "the introduction, acclimatisation, and domestication of all innoxious animals, birds, fishes, insects, and vegetables" as vital components of colonial prosperity (Tiffin 167). Not only were not-so-'innoxious' rabbits, laurels and grains introduced into Australia; imperial connectivity meant that animals were shipped out, too, including, in September 1865, "two kangaroos to the Royal Zoological Society in London, two scrub turkeys to New Caledonia," three red deer to a local landholder to try to breed from them, fish from the Mary River sent to Tasmania, and "five emus to the King of Siam" (165).
The Pain of Unbelonging : Alienation and Identity in Australasian Literature, Sheila Collingwood-Whittick (Ed.) : book reviewAuthor Bridget GroganSource: English in Africa 35, pp 195 –198 (2008)More Less
The Pain of Unbelonging is a collection of critical essays dealing with the subject of post-colonial alienation and its role in the construction of identity in contemporary Australasian literature. The collection addresses the writing of a diverse array of authors working within a wide range of literary genres, yet manages to effectively retain its focus on, and development of, the intriguingly-named concept of unbelonging. Perhaps this is because the term itself is wide-ranging. Coined by Germaine Greer, it signifies the ambivalent responses of both autochthonous and settler subjects to the post-colonial context. The negative prefix attached to the word "belonging" signals this ambivalence : settlers recognise their precarious attachment to a land that they have made their own, while indigenes, wrested from and yet remaining in their place of belonging, no longer feel at home. In her well-researched introduction, Sheila Collingwood-Whittick demonstrates the pain of unbelonging as an "endemic existential pathology in the contemporary (post) colonial nations of Australia and New Zealand" (xl). The collection could not have been timelier : the Australian government's recent, long-awaited apology to the Aboriginal peoples attests to the validity of Collingwood-Whittick's claim.
Author Brian WalterSource: English in Africa 35, pp 199 –201 (2008)More Less
Dan Wylie's new collection is real work, in many of the word's senses. As is typical of a good volume, meditation on the title, and its various challenging meanings, can help determine a way into some of the poems in the collection. Putting aside evocative hints such as the "road work" of physical training, the fairly obvious work written "on the road," or the sense - which comes out very strongly in this multi-continental meditation - of travel pieces, there are hints that the road refers not only to journeying, but to the very physicality of the earth upon which we travel, or over which we travel.