n English in Africa - Recently published South African literary histories

Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



In this article several controversial issues surrounding literary history as subgenre will be scrutinised. Literary histories are written with the intention of presenting a single unified image of the literary past. This necessitates a dual construction, for not only is the depiction of the literature a construct, but so is the depiction of the past. This implies that literary history is inherently hermeneutical, and that any presentation of the literary past is a narrative that eludes scientific objectivity. Despite this, a narrative is intuitively assessed according to its persuasiveness, range, comprehensiveness, and logic; that is, on its 'illocutionary force.' The focus of this article is on some recently published South African literary histories: those of Chapman, Heywood, and Kannemeyer. In keeping with the present emphasis on "literary fields," Brems is also discussed for his conviction that a literary history should ideally focus on literature as a social phenomenon (see Brems 2006).

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