Doctoral Degrees (English)

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    Madness and gender in contemporary diasporic life writing and fiction
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2024-03) De Villiers, Stephanie; Ellis, Jeanne, 1962-; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of English.
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this dissertation, I consider the roles that gender, migration, and diaspora play in the portrayal of madness in two contemporary life writing texts and four novels. The selected texts map a variety of diasporic journeys that encompass the variables of migration and emigration: I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying (2019) by Bassey Ikpi, The Icarus Girl (2005) by Helen Oyeyemi and Freshwater (2018) by Akwaeke Emezi all originate from Nigeria; Porochista Khakpour’s Sick: A Memoir (2018) from Iran; Sorry To Disrupt the Peace (2017) by Patrick Cottrell from South Korea; and Mira T. Lee’s Everything Here is Beautiful (2018) from China. The aim of this dissertation is therefore to examine how the triangular connection of madness, gender, and diaspora in these texts conveys the experiences of mental distress or madness caused by a sense of displacement or alienation that disrupts the lives of the protagonists. My specific interest is in their authors’ employment of metaphor and experiments with language and form to convey the interior worlds of the protagonists with a view to analysing the ways in which new definitions and vocabularies of madness emerge from the lived experience of diaspora portrayed. The key terms of the dissertation — ‘gender’, ‘madness’, and ‘diaspora’ — all raise important questions of definition and disciplinary specificity that emerge from substantive bodies of research and theory, which the dissertation engages within the context of literary criticism. The original contribution of this dissertation thus resides in the theoretical triangular connection of these terms in relation to a literary critical reading of examples of recent diasporic fiction and life writing which have in most cases not yet received extensive critical attention.
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    The city that billows smoke : a spatial reading of Bulawayo in prose fiction
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2024-03) Dube, Nhlanhla; Jones, Megan; Bangeni, Nwabisa; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of English.
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: My study investigates the ways in which Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, is represented on the page. By reading fiction authored during the ‘lost decade’, I explore images of the city which emanate from novels and short stories from writers in Zimbabwe and abroad. I answer the question, what argument about place is being made when a character is in a particular locale? Theoretically, I deploy Geocriticism in order to show that space is made up of places. This is done by reading sections of the literary city such as the suburb, the Location and the diasporan constituency as parts of a larger whole. The fact that all narratives have to happen somewhere is at the core of the idea that the geographical location ‘where’ narratives occur, is more than just background setting and aesthetic. My exploration of the literary suburb is concerned with concepts of belonging and the racial aspects of city space. I show the importance of walking the suburb and the significance the process of losing home has in defining the 21st century suburb. Through studying the Location, I privilege the importance of places of drink and construction activities in high density living areas, to show how they indicate a spirit of place. To add to this, I also account for the diasporan view in order to see how the idea of the literary city is complicated by the act of diasporic return. Diasporic return unearths versions of the city that exist outside national borders and it highlights that Bulawayo is in conversation with other cities. My project demonstrates the existence of a Bulawayo literary city which has intricate local political realities and socio-economic conditions. This thesis also establishes that readings of the city have to take into account history, politics and geography in order to gauge the conditions under which unique literary cities are formed.
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    Precarious unmoorings : women’s voices in the Anglo- and Lusophone literature of Adichie, Chiziane and Mohamed
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2023-03) Lim, Rose Joanna; Steiner, Tina; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of English.
    ENGLISH SUMMARY : African women’s writing has firmly established itself in the arena of postcolonial literatures. It has long walked on from the clamour of the great African language debate on the use of Europhone versus Afrophone languages in African fiction. This dissertation studies the enigma of unmoored African women’s articulations from the perspectives of narratives written in Anglo- and Lusophone mediums. Unmoored, ‘orphaned’ women’s language has taken on a life of its own and disengaged from its colonial-era Europhone sensibilities. It has unobtrusively established unmistakable footholds in the realms of African literature. I argue that the women-centric unmoored language in the narratives of African women writers exist within the ambits of culture and society and yet demonstrate vagabond tendency to wander and engage with further potentialities of articulation. My dissertation examines selected novels from the literary repertoires of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Paulina Chiziane and Nadifa Mohamed respectively. The main impetus for my study is to engage with the phenomenon of unmoored African women’s writing and the manner in which the narratives reflect and create registers in which the experience of women takes centre stage. In particular, attention is drawn to the multivalent articulations of the texts’ women protagonists and other supporting characters, and the routes through which they subversively express themselves in hostile patriarchal settings. The core chapters of this dissertation identify three main strands of such women-centric unmoored articulations, namely the role of imposed and strategic silence in Adichie’s narratives, a reliance on collective expression in Chiziane’s work and geo-poetic spatial contemplations in Mohamed’s texts. The variegated nuances of these different narrative features draw out the diverging approaches to articulation in selected narratives of these three African writers. Writing from Lusophone Africa, Chiziane offers an additional contrast to the Afro-Anglo-perspectives of Adichie and Mohamed. My dissertation contends that these women-centred narratives amplify the heterogenous stances of African women, whose voices do not conform to societies’ prevailing tenets.
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    Postcolonial minoritarian characters : transformative strategies for re-mediating raced marginalisation in South African English fiction
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2022-03) Misbach, Abdul Waghied; Murray, Sally-Ann; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of English.
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation consists of a research component titled “Speak, Love” and a creative component, the original novel Time Will Tell. The research essay is informed by strategic postcolonial imperatives and explores selected literary transformative strategies for remediating raced and related marginalisations to advance a social justice agenda. In adopting a minoritarian theoretical approach to fiction writing, it engages with silences of race, gender, belief and class. The creative manuscript, Time Will Tell, adopts certain narrative devices (among them the counterfactual, satirical and fabulist) to narrow the distance between minority and dominant ideologies. The research component emphasises a humanistic thinking that seeks to develop affinity, rather than divisions, between cultures, much like Goethe’s idea of Weltliteratur, or World Literature. The research draws on postcolonial ideas in an attempt to understand and dissect the manner in which certain canonical texts in English, including those of J.M. Coetzee, continue to effect social divisions rather than encourage unity. The study offers original insight that (in an approach not yet seen in Coetzee scholarship), argues for a clear link between Disgrace and Chaim Potok’s 1975 novel In the Beginning, whose protagonist is also named David Lurie. In my doctoral novel manuscript, I suggest that the much-lauded Coetzee harbours Orientalist and Islamophobic tendencies, supported and promoted by influential members of the academy and publishing. My discussion demonstrates, additionally via the novels of other authors, how deep-rooted prejudicial attitudes have sedimented, even among seemingly progressive thinkers and publishers. The creative part of the dissertation, Time Will Tell, employs absurdist and fabulist narrative devices to comment on the state of South African society, with the ‘reawakening’ of various historical figures into a tense, divided nation marked by malevolent machinations and counter-strategising. My main characters include Nelson Mandela (renamed Atallah in an allusion to Shakespeare’s Othello), Will (a version of William Shakespeare and The Tempest’s Prospero), Zarqa (a figuration of Sycorax and the mythical Arabian prophetess Zarqa Al-Yamamah), and Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (renamed Henry Farwood). We also have Adolf Hitler (renamed Adi Hiedler), and Leni Riefenstahl (renamed Hélène Stahl). The primary inspiration for my novel is Timur Vermes’ Look Who’s Back (2014), a popular work which reanimates Adolf Hitler as a mass media celebrity in contemporary Germany. Through what might at first appear a preposterous premise (as in the Vermes novel), my narrative uses satirically layered storytelling methods to prompt trenchant questions about such issues as economic exploitation, systemic racism, and entrenched historical privilege. My novel reminds us, as scholars Heynders and Bax have noted, of the efficacy of a “provocative realist setting” which may serve “as an obvious imaginary construct” in order to give a narrative “an innovative specific urgency” via a premise that “critiques actual events and concerns”. One of the dissertation’s key research questions expressed in the novel is the reimagining of canonical works (combining homage and critique) from the perspective of minor, marginalised characters. I effect this through a literary-imaginative disrupting of received Historical Truths and inherited (life) stories.
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    Myth and counterfactuality in diasporic African women’s novels
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2022-03) Kwanya, Joseph Michael Amolo; Green, Louise; Sanger, Nadia; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of English.
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation focuses on the way in which a selection of novels by diasporic African women writers has, in different ways, engaged with myth in order to challenge dominant masculinist and essentialist narratives about women’s roles in African society. These authors either draw on traditional myths, challenge the mythologising function of nationalist histories or generate new forms of myths for the future. Although these novels are not counterfactual in the conventional sense–they do not change the outcomes of history–I argue that counterfactual theory offers a valuable way of analysing them. Each of the authors takes facts, historical figures, known histories, and myths, and reworks them in different ways, creating new versions of events where women play key roles. I demonstrate that analysing these texts as counterfactuals allows us to tease out how these authors challenge the androcentric notions of gender in myth and history by focusing their imagination on the silenced, elided, and undermined stories of African women. My reading of Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu (2014) and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016) explores how using myth to unsettle history and history to unsettle myth uncovers complex stories of African women. Wartime novels such as Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King (2019) and Nadifa Mohamed’s The Orchard of Lost Souls (2013) focus on the mythologising function of nationalist histories in which certain stories are elevated to a position of dominance and others are suppressed or ignored. Whether constructed by the author or simulated by female characters, counterfactuals in the two novels construct worlds where women’s roles and experiences during wars are revealed. My analysis of Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer (2020) and Nnedi Okorafor’s two novels, The Book of Phoenix (2015) and Who Fears Death (2010), explores the genre of speculative fiction as a flexible space for experimenting with the counterfactual framework in telling African women’s stories through new forms of myths. The analysis shows that while narratives such as myth and history seem fixed and controlling, counterfactuals are valuable tools for unsettling their dominance.