Doctoral Degrees (English)

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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.
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    Vulnerability and agency : queer representations in contemporary literary and cultural texts from Sub-Saharan Africa
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2021-12) Macheso, Wesley Paul; Viljoen, Shaun; Slabbert, Mathilda; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of English.
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines representations of queer genders and sexualities in literary and cultural texts from sub-Saharan Africa written and/or produced in the twenty-first century. The analysis brings together life writing, short fiction, and filmic texts depicting the experiences of queer subjects from the region, which is notorious for homophobia and other forms of exclusion based on bodily performances in gender and sexuality. My focus is on assessing how these texts represent the vulnerability associated with queerness in the region and the ways in which the marginalised identities seek and attain agency amidst such vulnerabilities. The thesis further examines the ways in which these literary and cinematic representations function as agentic narratives giving voice, visibility, and audience to oppressed identities that are deliberately left to lurk on the margins of heteropatriarchal societies that thrive on maintaining heteronormative gender and sexual orders that satisfy the capitalistic demands of patriarchy for its sustenance. The study establishes that queer individuals in sub-Saharan Africa are rendered vulnerable because of the lack of recognition of their identities due to heteronormative discourses on gender and sexuality that inform permissible and/or non-permissible forms of being. The heteronormative commandments justifying queer exclusion are thoroughly interwoven in social, political, religious, and cultural norms advanced by authorities in the region. However, the study has found that representing these stigmatised lives in literary and cultural texts has the potential of granting them agency for fostering positive social change and reshaping the negative attitudes that mainstream societies have towards these identities. This agency for queer liberation proves to be crucial in securing possible unthreatened futures for queerness in sub-Saharan Africa.
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    Appraising the counterpoint : bifocal readings of literary landscapes in the American Renaissance and post-apartheid South Africa
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2021-03) Theron, Cleo Beth; Jones, Megan; De Villiers, Dawid; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of English.
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study constitutes an experimental bifocal reading that was prompted by historical and literary parallels and convergences between the United States and South Africa. In particular, the study demonstrates several thematic similarities between literature produced during the “American Renaissance” in the mid-nineteenth century and post-apartheid South Africa. Bifocalism is based on conceptions of world literature as 1) a domain that brings into contact texts from different geographical contexts, and 2) a mode of reading comparatively. Bifocalism is employed in conjunction with Edward Said’s characterisation of contrapuntalism, a means to reappraiselong-standing interpretations or bring to the fore subtle or occluded features of one text through a reading of another placed alongside it. Each chapter is devoted to a textual pairing that is based on similarities between the socio-historical contexts of the American Renaissance and the post-apartheid period. Chapter One looks at Margaret Fuller’s Summer on the Lakes, in 1843(1844) and Julia Martin’s A Millimetre of Dust: VisitingAncestral Sites(2008),two female-authored travel narratives that engage with the effects of European expansion on the frontier and the resultant displacement of indigenous communities. Chapter Two focuses on inherited land among descendants of European settlers and the legacies of political and judicial injustices that helped to construct whites’ occupation of the land as a given while eliding the presence of those who inhabited the land before them. It analyses Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Gothic story, The House of the Seven Gables(1851),and Michiel Heyns’s translationof Marlene van Niekerk’s Afrikaans plaasroman, Agaat(2006). Chapter Three concerns myths of paradisiacal landscapes, how these are employed to legitimise claims of landownership and how mixed bloodlines complicate such claims in its reading of William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter(1853) and Zoë Wicomb’s David’s Story(2000). Chapter Four analyses Frederick Douglass’ slave narrative My Bondage and My Freedom(1855) and Aziz Hassim’s historical novel Revenge of Kali(2009) to compare depictions of imported labour. The chapter juxtaposes Douglass’ view on slavery and Hassim’s depiction of indentured labour to compare their texts’ representations of national belonging for those who worked on plantations. The bifocal readings are anchored in the significant body of comparative work that has already been done on American and South African society and literature. Attention to these literary contexts reveals that they have in common concerted efforts to put in writing the circumstances of a purportedly new nation built on the principles of democracy. I argue that such attempts are frequently addressed in these two eras by means of the motifs of land and landscape (the latter being the aesthetic configuration of the former). I analyse how land, as a deeply contested phenomenon in both countries in the periods under consideration, is used by writers to depict national struggles pertaining to democracy, national newness, identity and belonging.