English in Africa - Volume 40, Issue 1, 2013
Volumes & issues
Volume 40, Issue 1, 2013
Author Craig MacKenzieSource: English in Africa 40, pp 9 –10 (2013)More Less
Margaret Mary Lenta was born and grew up in Northumberland, north England, and taught in Nigeria and Kenya before settling in South Africa in 1966. From 1973 until her retirement in 1999 she worked as a lecturer in English Studies at the University of Natal, now the University of KwaZulu-Natal, rising steadily until attaining the rank of full professor in 1994. From 1999 she was Emeritus Professor and a very active Senior Research Associate of the university.
Author Jonathan CreweSource: English in Africa 40, pp 11 –35 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.1More Less
December 2009: the first American edition of J. M. Coetzee's Summertime: Fiction (hereafter Summertime) appears. My personal curiosity is piqued. Here, it would seem from the publicity, is a fictionalized autobiography that covers the period in which I had overlapped with Coetzee at the University of Cape Town. I do not expect to feature in this "fiction" - why should I? - but I am curious about ways in which my own recall of those years may or may not coincide with Coetzee's fictionalized ones.
I receive a complimentary copy of the book from Viking, with a signed card from Coetzee. Is it a gift or a message? Both? I want to thank him. His University of Adelaide electronic mailbox is full. I send an actual letter, on paper. He replies in an email, "What a pleasure to receive an old-fashioned letter." I read the book. In it, the author John Coetzee has died in Australia. We are being given some materials of a posthumous biography in preparation by a literary biographer.
These materials include a small number of dated notebook entries and some "undated fragments" written, we must believe, by Coetzee between 1972 and 1975. The full time span covered by the book is not, however, wholly clear. Most of the book consists of contemporary "interviews" conducted by the biographer assembling the book. These are interviews with people, all women with one exception, with whom Coetzee is evidently known to have had relationships. The John Coetzee of Summertime will thus be a function of heterogeneous memories dating back as much as thirty years.
Author Leon De KockSource: English in Africa 40, pp 37 –57 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.2More Less
I must confess, superficially and straight up, that I could not enter into the writing of this inaugural lecture - my second, and please, let it be my last - without first looking into the history of the "inaugural lecture" as a form. So I did some fairly quick digital browsing, the advantage of which is that the internet's synchronic purview of everything and anything available right this instant implicitly invokes, also, the inbuilt diachrony of time-bound expressions of form and value.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 59 –78 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.3More Less
Whither or wither literature?
The question arose sharply last year, at least for me, when I was teaching an English Studies Honours class. No common ground here, I heard myself muttering, on which to build an advanced, however slightly advanced, study of literature. No core of works which all the students have read and to which I can refer. More pointedly, no common understanding of what might constitute the literary work, whether canonical - several had not encountered Shakespeare since their matric year - or an expression of the culture, say, the TV soap.
The literary theory class - the module having been completed in the previous semester - had not introduced its students to the ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy. There had been no introduction to the major historical and/or aesthetic ways in which literature has traditionally been conceived: for example, work to world (Aristotelian mimesis); affect or pleasure; the genius of Romantic creativity; Eliotian or Modernist autonomy; later, the New Critical well-wrought urn. The literary theory class, instead, offered philosophically unsophisticated generalities - these were literary students, after all, not philosophy students - from Marx and Nietzsche, from Foucault and Derrida, or a catalogue of postcolonial terms about subalterns, others, migrants and diasporas. In a module entitled "Renaissance and Its Continuing Significance," I posed a question that I had encountered soon after taking up my first lecturing post: "Beneath his black skin Othello is one of us. Discuss."
Author Patrick LentaSource: English in Africa 40, pp 79 –97 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.4More Less
The judicial memoir is a paradoxical genre, since "the judicial role demands concealment and suppression of precisely those personal aspects of life which an autobiography exposes to view" (Ray 707). Tension arises between the ethical obligations of disinterestedness, impartiality and confidentiality imposed on judges, and the revelatory impulse animating autobiography. Vexed and politically charged questions concerning propriety confront judges embarking on autobiographical ventures. To what extent is it acceptable for a judge to make public information, or opinions, relating to colleagues on the Bench, or to cases heard and judgments rendered (either by the author or by his/her peers), or to the workings of courts in which he or she has presided? Is it appropriate to disclose information about the author's private life or his political commitments? May judges pronounce publicly on the nature of the judicial function?
Communities of mourning and vulnerability : Zakes Mda's Ways of Dying and Phaswane Mpe's Welcome to Our HillbrowAuthor Maria J. LopezSource: English in Africa 40, pp 99 –117 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.5More Less
Arguing that "postcolonial narrative, structured by a tension between the oppressive memory of the past and the liberatory promise of the future, is necessarily involved in a work of mourning" (Postcolonial 1), Sam Durrant has analyzed J. M. Coetzee's novels as "testify[ing] to the suffering engendered by apartheid" (24). But what if the "liberatory promise of the future" (1) has finally arrived in the form of a new, post-apartheid, democratic order, and yet that order is characterized by still more suffering, seemingly giving rise to an endless work of mourning?
That seems to have been the order of things in South Africa in the last two decades, certainly as it is depicted in Zakes Mda's Ways of Dying (1995) - which deals with the period of transition to democracy - and in Phaswane Mpe's Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001), which focuses on life in South Africa under the new political dispensation. Both Mda and Mpe depict a society in which death and violence are omnipresent - with pervasive inter-ethnic conflict, the marginalization of people affected by HIV/AIDS and hatred toward foreigners coming from other African countries - so that the project of "a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world," as Mandela put it in his inaugural address as President of the Republic of South Africa, has, at least partly, collapsed.
Stereotypes and subversions : reading queer representations in two contemporary South African novelsAuthor Jessica MurraySource: English in Africa 40, pp 119 –138 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.6More Less
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick explains that the concept of "queer" can connote the "open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone's gender, or anyone's sexuality aren't made (or can't be made) to signify monolithically" (8). This article offers a queer reading of two contemporary South African novels, namely Cracks (1999) by Sheila Kohler and Saracen at the Gates (2009) by Zinaid Meeran. Although the former has been adapted into a film starring major Hollywood actors and the latter has won the prestigious European Union Literary Award, these texts have received surprisingly little attention from literary scholars. This is especially curious when one considers the rich analytical possibilities that the texts present in terms of their representations of gender and sexuality. The only notable exception in this regard is the work of Cheryl Stobie, who is also South Africa's foremost authority on the representational dynamics that come into play in the fictional construction of bisexual identities. In "Somewhere in the Double Rainbow: Queering the Nation in Recent South African Fiction," Stobie demonstrates how "reading the significance of the representation of bisexuality can contribute to an understanding of the state of the nation" in a country with a particularly "vicious history of binarist discourse" (120; see also Stobie, "Reading Bisexualities"). She does so by means of close critical analyses of Cracks, Shamim Sarif's The World Unseen (2001) and K. Sello Duiker's The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2001). This article will explore how Kohler and Meeran articulate the "lapses and excesses of meaning" (Kosofsky Sedgwick 8) in ways that both perpetuate homophobic stereotypes and suggest subversive readings of sexuality. I will demonstrate how familiar homophobic stereotypes of lesbians as predatory, dangerous, violent, deviant seducers of "innocent" heterosexual girls are deployed by the authors, albeit to very different ends. In the case of Cracks, the refusal to adhere to heteronormative gender and sexual codes of behaviour is a destructive force in the lives of the characters and culminates in murder. In Saracen at the Gates the social panic that is associated with lesbian desire is also represented but the text encourages readers to critique lesbian stereotypes and the concomitant panic, rather than simply leaving them unchallenged.
Author Aghogho AkpomeSource: English in Africa 40, pp 139 –159 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.7More Less
The title of this paper is inspired by a penetrating aphorism from Chinua Achebe's third novel, Arrow of God, uttered by Ezeulu, the novel's central character: "the world is like a Mask dancing, if you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place" (Achebe 46). The masquerade, common in many parts of Africa, is believed in traditional religion to involve the temporary incarnation of certain spirits and/or deities by whom the human host of the mask is possessed, and whose performance is controlled by a spiritual and supernatural force (Isichei 253). The stage for a masquerade's performance is often the village square, and unlike the performance of controlled actors, the supernatural performer is not bound to one location but usually moves about in all directions, making it necessary for the audience also to change locations constantly (see Eze 99). Achebe's instructive life simile is particularly fitting for any exploration of selfhood and constructions of identity (whether individual or collective) in contemporary times. This is even more so for the postcolonial and postmodernist condition, characterized as they are by multiple subjectivities and sensibilities as well as evershifting, kaleidoscopic contexts.
Author Mike MaraisSource: English in Africa 40, pp 161 –171 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.8More Less
Acts of Visitation: The Narrative of J. M. Coetzee by María J. López. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2011. ISBN: 978-90-420-3407-5 (hardcover). xxvii + 344pp.
J. M. Coetzee and the Novel: Writing and Politics after Beckett by Patrick Hayes. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-19-958795-7 (hardcover). 275pp.
The Deliverance of Others: Reading Literature in a Global Age by David Palumbo-Liu. Durham and London: Duke UP, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-8223-5269-3 (paperback). xiv + 226pp.
Author Bridget GroganSource: English in Africa 40, pp 173 –184 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.9More Less
Author Tony VossSource: English in Africa 40, pp 185 –191 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i1.10More Less
Randolph Vigne has assembled these 223 South African letters of Thomas Pringle from archives, libraries and private collections in South Africa, Great Britain and Canada. The first few letters were written from Edinburgh, where Pringle was preparing to leave for the Cape, the last few from London, where, after the passage of the Emancipation Act, Pringle was expecting to return to South Africa. The last letter is dated 17th November 1834. Pringle died on 5th December and the collection closes with his Last Will and Testament. The poet and abolitionist was an active correspondent: he writes from Deptford, Cape Town, Bavians River (Pringle's spelling, later Teviotdale), Graaff-Reinet, Grahamstown, Theopolis, Uitenhage and many other places visited in his criss-crossing of the Cape. The sequencing and division of the letters follow Pringle's career: from the settlement of his family on the frontier, through the success and disappointment of Cape Town and the clash with Somerset, to the turning-point, probably a meeting with Andries Stockenstrom and Dr. John Phillip, which led Pringle to the final calling with which he would leave the colony: "the general cause of liberty," and the last years of abolitionist activity in London. Randolph Vigne, who has done Pringle proud - the transcriptions, notes and introduction are excellent - is, I understand, working on a biography of Pringle, which we can now look forward to as a fitting culmination of the work begun by Patricia Morris's account of the life. In his work on these letters Randolph Vigne has already brought readers closer to the distinctive personality of Pringle and to the complex ways in which he was implicated in the history and politics of his time. Liberalism is a contested order in South Africa today but Pringle's struggle for press freedom has a continuing relevance.