A reading of Blood Meridian (Essay) and The Book Of War (Novel)

Whyle, James (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2012-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

Two separate texts are submitted towards the degree of MA in Creative Writing. The first is this essay, A Reading of Blood Meridian. The second is a novel, The Book of War. Essay The general focus of the essay is the theme of free will in Blood Meridian and the techniques with which the narrative elements of character, story, style and voice are deployed to focus the reader's mind on this theme. The central question: is the meaning, the final message, of Blood Meridian that as individuals human beings lack agency and that as groups they are shackled to a common destiny? The hypothesis is that Blood Meridian contains significant patterns, oppositions and dialectics, designed to place arguments for and against agency in the mind of the reader, but that the book's response to the theme is inherently and structurally ambiguous. Novel The novel was written before the essay. It was written in direct response to Blood Meridian and to the realization that Blood Meridian was a text rooted in history. Like Blood Meridian, The Book of War is based on, grows out of, first person accounts, specifically Stephen Bartlett Lakeman's What I saw in Kaffir-Land (1880) and William Ross King's Campaigning in Kaffirland: Or Scenes and Adventures in The Kaffir War of 1851- 1852 (1853). The novel takes characters devolved from Lakeman and places them in King’s journey through the war. These characters create, around a child called the kid, the social backdrop of a coming of age tale. The novel uses its source texts as a lens through which to view, and tell the story of, the War of The Prophet (Eight Frontier War 1850-53). Readers seeking to answer the question: Why is South Africa a violent society? might find at least part of the answer in the nature of, and the relationships between, English, Xhosa, Dutch, Khoi and Mfengu cultures in the 19th Century.

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