n English in Africa - Speaking for the perpetrator : whiteness and sexuality in Alan Paton's

Volume 35, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Confessional narratives, both in fiction and in political discussions, deal with the past in very distinctive ways. A confession is retroactive, and the narrative is shaped by the wrongdoing, which is to be disclosed. It constructs an opposition between evil as a hidden secret and confession as openness and awareness of past wrong. Accordingly, the act of confession in itself signals a move away from 'evil' towards 'good.' This genre also defines the speaker in interesting ways. The protagonist of a confession is most often also its narrator. It is through the act of placing oneself within a retrospective narrative that the move from 'evil' to 'good' is made possible. The speaking subject thus grants himself or herself the power to return to his or her own history with the purpose of disclosing actions that he or she has previously kept hidden. In this way the genre also demands a considerable distance between protagonist and narrator. The distance is achieved through the act of disclosure itself, by speaking out and opening up the past and, in the process, by defining oneself as a perpetrator.

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