The representation of women in the works of three South African novelists of the transition

Ibinga, Stephane Serge
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Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch
The dissertation focuses on literary representation of female characters in selected novels by three particular South African writers working within the transitional phase (from the formal ending of apartheid up to the present) of South African history. By means of textual analysis, the study investigates how the representation of numerous female characters in these texts reflects on and reflects the sector of South African society that forms the social setting of each text. This thesis explores the portrayal of female characters in selected fictional works by examining the ways in which the novelists Mandla Langa, Zakes Mda (both of them black and male writers) and Nadine Gordimer (a white and female novelist) characterise women in novels depicting this adapting society. In scrutinising these texts of the transition period, the thesis writer employs detailed individual delineation of female characters, to some extent by means of a comparative approach, with emphasis on parallels between as well as differences among the abovementioned authors’ ways of describing South African women’s circumstances and responses to their social predicaments. In this study literary representations of women are examined in order to evaluate the effects of social and cultural transformation in post-apartheid South Africa. This is done by analysing these authors’ portrayals of women’s circumstances both in the private and public spheres. The thesis therefore contributes to the movement towards a greater recognition of women’s crucial, catalytic function in the achievement of social development and delineates these authors’ expressed awareness of many women’s actual direct involvement in the struggle against all forms of discrimination in society. This research project has been undertaken as an opportunity to investigate the different qualities and types of conduct attributed to female characters in ten selected novels of the transition, on the assumption that the texts reflect something of the way women are perceived and are playing new roles in a changing society. In studying how three significant ‘post-apartheid’ authors depict women affecting and affected by the social conditions of this period, the thesis traces the way the focus of more recent South African writing has shifted from an apartheid-era preoccupation with racial-political issues towards the depiction of private and public, rural and urban social and gender roles available to some contemporary South African women – and of those factors still constraining some other women. Taking in these authors’ portrayals of female political activism and leadership, the thesis also balances previous preoccupation (in South African English literature) with depictions of male political activity.
Thesis (DLitt (English))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
Theses -- English literature, Dissertations -- English literature