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Troubled writing: cultural responses to trauma in post-apartheid South Africa

Kent, Faith 2008. Troubled writing: cultural responses to trauma in post-apartheid South Africa. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Abstract

This thesis proposes that while the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) offers an official lens through which to read South Africa's traumatic past, it has generated a highly problematic historiography. I conceive of apartheid as posing a crisis of representation which presents literary authors, who both support and critique the "healing" process that the government wants to initiate, with a contradiction. In the light of this I argue that post-apartheid fiction writers' engagement with national history exceeds the placatory and symbolic agenda of the TRC, to restore a necessary element of violence to South Africa's process of decolonisation. The first two chapters of the thesis illustrate that the TRC (an institutional response to trauma) attempts to fuse nationalism and psychotherapeutic principles in a hegemonic spectacle of confession, which aims to construct a new national imaginary based on a collective approach to apartheid as historical trauma. I examine testimony, the TRC's published Report and entries to the Register of Reconciliation to show how the form and content of memorial texts are manipulated to predispose public responses to the past, and that it is necessary to go beyond their words to read apartheid's ongoing trauma. The final three chapters analyse fiction and autobiography by Andre Brink, J M Coetzee, Antjie Krog, Rian Malan and Zoe Wicomb, who respond to apartheid's crisis of representation by deliberately agitating the metanarratives of South African literature. The writers use various strategies to restore some of the missing violence to national political transition: a range of literary devices indicates the texts' function as national allegories, in Fredric Jameson's sense. These enable a democratisation and honouring of the past that troubles the grand narratives of nation and affirms the transhistorical potency of literature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
ISBN: 9781303210051
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2016 23:12
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/54664

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