n English in Africa - Captivity novels as critique of South African colonialism

Volume 46 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Captivity narratives are a well-established genre in North American settler literature and many South African shipwreck and captivity narratives also articulated settler identity through fear of indigenous peoples and raised fears of miscegenation. But, as Joe Snader has demonstrated, there are many captivity narratives in European and particularly English writing that offer a more critical view of colonialism and the coloniser. This article explores the relatively neglected latter strand in writing about South Africa, concentrating on three novels: the anonymously produced Makanna, or The Land of the Savage (1834), Edward Kendall’s An English Boy at the Cape (1835), and Isabella Aylmer’s The Adventures of Mrs Colonel Somerset in Caffraria (1858). These novels offer a critical view of colonial expansion and military conquest rather than a moral panic about the dangers of an unsettled interior. Analysis of these novels suggests that these authors developed the genre in response to particular South African circumstances and conditions, supporting Snader’s argument that a European form found a wide range of different expressions in different cultures.

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