By Martin Trump
“Essays cover all genres of South African writing from 1970 to the present—novels, black and white poetry, theater, and writing in Afrikaans. Each essay has extensive notes and references. The information conveyed constitutes a comprehensive survey of the major critics’ ideas and authors’ themes.”
Much recent critical practice, sharpened by an engagement with theory, has questioned conventional notions about literature. There has been a tendency to democratize our understanding of literature, so as to include a wide range of cultural practices that might formerly have been excluded from literary-critical concern. In addition, more attention is being paid to the conditions surrounding literary production and teaching.
Critical projects of this kind have a particular urgency and relevance in South Africa today. The country is characterized by processes of repression and democratic struggle. Debates about South African literature take place within a context where there are intimate links between political and literary discourses. The essays in this book reveal the complex and arguably inevitable politicization of South African literary culture.
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Rewriting Modernity: Studies in Black South African Literary History connects the black literary archive in South Africa to international postcolonial studies via the theory of transculturation, a position adapted from the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz.
J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual addresses the contribution Coetzee has made to contemporary literature, not least for the contentious forays his work makes into South African political discourse and the field of postcolonial studies.
These essays examine the multifaceted work of the Central American author whom Latin American literary historians consider precursor of “cultural dialogism” in poetry and fiction. As poet, essayist, journalist, novelist, and writer of “quasi–testimonio,” Alegría’s multiple discourses transgress the boundaries between traditional and postmodern political theories and practices.