n English in Africa - Inscribing whiteness and staging belonging in contemporary autobiographies and life-writing forms

Volume 37, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



This paper enters the dialogue on representations of white South Africa in the contemporary historical moment. It asks whether the configuration of white autobiography has shifted and altered over time, and whether certain modes of representation continue to hold a significant place in the South African culture of letters. Clearly, autobiography still occupies a prominent position in this culture : the genre is hailed as having resuscitated local narratives by narrowing the gulf between the academic study of literature and the reading habits of the 'ordinary' South African. A cursory glance at the shelves of mainstream literary outlets, such as Exclusive Books and the CNA, demonstrates the popularity of this genre - in its various forms, including those that blend fiction and life-writing, it populates the South African literature sections of these institutions. Leading this trend are novels like John Van de Ruit's series, a trilogy championed in media reviews for "its popularity with both highbrow and lowbrow audiences" ("100 Young South Africans" 1).

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