From ‘Apartheid’ to the ‘Rainbow Nation’ and beyond : the representation of childhood and youth in South African coming-of-age narratives

Patterson, Rebecca Rachelle (2017-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines the representation of childhood and youth in South African coming-of-age narratives set in the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. Although child and youth protagonists feature prominently in many South African literary texts, the trope of childhood has yet to be systematically and extensively examined by scholars. Thus, this research attempts to address this gap by surveying a wide-ranging selection of childhood narratives using a modified version of Franco Moretti‟s concept of „distant reading‟. The objective is to map something of the field of childhood and youth in South African texts in order to open it up to various analytical possibilities, hence making a useful contribution to this growing body of research. Indeed, one of the most important contributions of this thesis is the accompanying appendix, which comprises a list of two hundred and forty-five South African texts that feature the theme of childhood to varying degrees. Throughout this study, I approach childhood itself as a critical frame and locus of concern, rather than as a subsidiary trope or lens through which other themes and concepts are highlighted and thus take precedence. In order for this type of comprehensive analysis of childhood and youth to emerge, I investigate and interrogate five main binary oppositions (victim/perpetrator, child/adult, domestic/political, agency/powerlessness, and identity/ difference) that govern notions of childhood. These binaries form a major part of the analysis of apartheid and post-apartheid childhood texts in Chapters Two and Three respectively. One of the central arguments of this study is that despite the paradigmatically severed depictions of childhood that exist side by side (due to apartheid policies of segregation), childhood is nonetheless represented as a „site of struggle‟ regardless of the race, culture, or economic class of the young protagonist. I maintain that these „sites of struggle‟, which are often located within the aforementioned binaries, extend into the post-apartheid era, thus dissolving the utopian vision of a „rainbow nation‟ and a „new‟ South Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die manier waarop kinders en die jeug se volwassewording-vertellings in die tydperke van apartheid en na-apartheid uitgebeeld word. Alhoewel jeugdige en kinder-protagoniste prominent voorkom in talle Suid-Afrikaanse tekste, is daar tot nog toe nie 'n sistematiese en uitvoerige bespreking van dié gebied gedoen nie. Daarom be-oog my navorsing om hierdie leemte te vul deur 'n wye verskeidenheid kinder-narratiewe met behulp van 'n aanpassing van Franco Moretti se se konsep van “afstand-lees” te gebruik. Die doelstelling is om ‟n riglyn te skep wat verskillende analitiese benaderings ten opsigte van jeuglektuur sal voorstel en om sodoende 'n nuttige bydrae tot hierdie groeiende studieveld te lewer. Dit beteken dat die meegaande aanhangsel die belangrikste bydrae tot hierde tesis kan wees, aangesien dit bestaan uit 'n lys van tweehonderd-vyf-en-veertig Suid-Afrikaanse tekste wat tematies in wisselende mate op kinderjare gefokus is. Ek benader deurgaans die kinderjare self as 'n kritiese raamwerk en uitgangsplek, eerder as 'n ondergeskikte besprekingsveld en lens wat ander temas en konsepte uitlig wat dan voorkeur geniet. Om ‟n omvattende analise van kinder- en jeugjare daar te stel, het ek vyf binêre teenoorgesteldes wat 'n rol speel in beskouings van kinderjare ondersoek, naamlik slagoffer/aandadige, kind/volwassene, huishoudelik/polities, bemagtiging/ontmagtiging, identiteit/identiteitsverksille. Hierdie binêre speel veral 'n groot rol in die analise van apartheid- en na-apartheid kinderlektuur, onderskeidelik in Hoofstuk Twee en Drie. Een van die sentrale argumente van hierdie studie is dat, ten spyte van onversoenbare beskouings van kinderjare wat naas mekaar bestaan, word kinderjare nogtans voorgestel as 'n plek van verset, ongeag die ras, kultuur of ekonomiese stand van die protagonis. Dit is my mening dat hierdie versetvelde wat dikwels binne die gemelde binêre bestaan, oorvloei na die na-apartheid era en daardeur die utopiese visie van ‟n „reënboognasie‟ en 'n „nuwe‟ Suid-Afrika negeer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100986
This item appears in the following collections: