When the known world dissolves : representations of the white male on the South African stage in the transitional years (1980-2000)

Borthwick, Hannah (2014-04)

Thesis (MDram)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study explores the representation of the white male character in various South African plays from the period 1980–2000, a time when South Africa was experiencing severe changes and upheavals as a result of the crumbling of the apartheid state and the dawning of a new, democratic and „free‟ South Africa. Taking into account a number of appropriate philosophical and sociological theories (for example 20th century western concepts of whiteness and masculinity), the thesis looks at the way in which such an enormous social and political transformation was able to influence the life and reality of the individual white man and his reactions to it. By considering the interaction of collective and personal identity within the framework of a changing South Africa, the study explores some of the ways in which such interactions may create insecurity and threaten the foundations of a particular cultural or ethnic group. . The focus of the study is an analysis of selected works by playwrights Paul Slabolepszy, Greig Coetzee, André P. Brink and Deon Opperman, and focusses specifically on three predominant themes identified in the plays, namely: recognition, dangerous insecurity (ressentiment) and the ever-present past. These themes are used to explore and illustrate a particular cultural group‟s psyche (as well that of its individuals members) during a specific period in South African history and, to a certain extent, their attempts to redefine their identities. These are characters (and thus, one may infer, playwrights) who were all trying to make sense of a tumultuous past, an insecure present and an uncertain future, and trying to understand their own contribution to and place in it. The final conclusion is that the South African white male was going (is going?) through a form of collective, existential, “mid-life crisis”, one in which they needed to accept that they had become outnumbered and were in a sense alone in their crisis. They were forced to compromise their collective identity in this new reality, a situation epitomised by the way they seek to construct (new) personal identities in order to adapt. A final conclusion is that this is an ongoing process clearly displayed by the new work on offer at contemporary arts festivals.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie bekyk die uitbeelding van die wit man as 'n karakter in verskeie Suid-Afrikaanse toneelstukke gedurende die jare 1980 tot 2000. In hierdie tyd het Suid-Afrika drastiese veranderings ondergaan as gevolg van die val van die apartheid staat en die onstaan van 'n demokratiese, "vrye" land. In die studie word dan, in die lig van toepaslike filosofiese en sosiologiese teorieë (soos bv 20ste eeuse westerse konsepte van manlikheid en witheid) meer spesifiek ondersoek ingestel na die impak van sodanige ekstreme politieke en sosiale omwentelings in 'n land op die lewe en realiteit van die individuele wit man, en sy respons daarop. In die proses word daar verder ook gefokus op die wisselwerking tussen kollektiewe en persoonlike identiteite in die raamwerk van 'n veranderende Suid-Afrika en hoe hierdie wisselwerking selfs 'n sekere kulturele of etniese groepering se fondamente kan laat wankel. Die ondersoek word onderneem aan die hand van ontledings van enkele toepaslike toneelstukke van Paul Slabolepszy, Greig Coetzee, André P. Brink en Deon Opperman, en daar word spesifiek gekyk na drie oorheersende temas wat in die stukke geïdentifiseer is: herkenning (“recognition”), gevaarlike onsekerheid (“dangerous insecurity” of “ressentiment”) en die altyd teenwoordige verlede (“ever-present past”). Hierdie temas word gebruik om die psige van 'n spesifieke kulturele groep (asook sy indivdue) te illustreer gedurende 'n spesifieke tydperk in die Suid-Afrikaanse geskiedenis en om tot 'n sekere mate sy identiteit te help her-definieer. Hierdie karakters (en selfs dramaturge) probeer sin maak uit hul onstuimige verlede, komplekse hede en onseker toekoms en hul eie bydrae tot en plek daarin. Die gevolgtrekking word bereik dat die Suid-Afrikaanse wit man wat hier uitgebeeld word 'n tipe kollektiewe eksistensiële krisis ervaar het (of steeds ervaar?) waarin hulle moes aanvaar dat hulle die minderheid was en ook op hierdie manier alleen is in hulle krisis. Hulle word geforseer om hul kollektiewe wese (=identiteit) te probeer wysig om in te pas by die nuwe realiteit waarin hulle hulself bevind. Dit word geïllustreeer deur hul soeke na (nuwe) persoonlike identiteite. 'n Finale gevolgtrekking is dat hierdie proses 'n aanhoudende een is, soos gedemonstreer deur heelwat nuwe werke wat te sien is op hedendaagse kunste feeste.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86336
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