n English in Africa - Stereotypes and subversions : reading queer representations in two contemporary South African novels
|Article Title||Stereotypes and subversions : reading queer representations in two contemporary South African novels|
|© Publisher:||Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA)|
|Journal||English in Africa|
|Affiliations||1 University of South Africa|
|Publication Date||May 2013|
|Pages||119 - 138|
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.
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