n English in Africa - Stereotypes and subversions : reading queer representations in two contemporary South African novels

Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



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 be made) to signify monolithically" (8). This article offers a queer reading of two contemporary South African novels, namely (1999) by Sheila Kohler and (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 , Shamim Sarif's (2001) and K. Sello Duiker's (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 , 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 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.

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