Transnationalism in Southern African Literature: Modernists, Realists, and the Inequality of Print Culture

Transnationalism in Southern African Literature: Modernists, Realists, and the Inequality of Print Culture

Transnationalism in Southern African Literature: Modernists, Realists, and the Inequality of Print Culture

Transnationalism in Southern African Literature: Modernists, Realists, and the Inequality of Print Culture

Synopsis

Considering the growing interest in South African Literature at the moment, this study looks at both the Anglophone literature of South Africa and the lusophone literature of Angola and Mozambique.

Stefan Helgesson suggests that the prevalence of 'colonial' languages such as English and Portuguese in 'anticolonial' or 'postcolonial' African Literature is primarily an effect of the print network. Helgesson aims to demystify the authority of English and Portuguese by stressing the materiality of the print medium and emphasising the strong transnational and transcontinental vectors of southern African literature after the Second World War.

Excerpt

This book owes something to my father’s daily trips from our home in Kensington, Johannesburg, to his office in Braamfontein in the early 1970s. I once followed him there and had a vague feeling that this ‘Bureau of Literacy and Literature,’ which he led in the years before the Soweto uprising in 1976, was more modest than its name implied. But its initiative to combat illiteracy in South Africa was in fact so successful that the apartheid government decided to infiltrate it (after my father had left the organization).

Literacy, literature, and power. In retrospect, I see that the links were obvious, even in my childhood. It is possible to read Transnationalism in Southern African Literature as an oblique response to that early conditioning.

The chapters that follow are a series of interconnected essays dealing with southern African literature in English and Portuguese in the years between (roughly) 1945 and 1975. Proceeding from the assumption that the story of modern African literature is also the story of the print medium in colonial modernity, each chapter focuses on separate questions: world literature and postcolonialism in Chapter 1, literary newness in Chapter 2, literary criticism in Chapter 3, lyrical subjectivity in Chapter 4, and realism in Chapter 5. Earlier versions of Chapters 2 and 4 have been published as articles, and all have evolved heuristically through my response to material that has sparked my interest—and that I have been able to get hold of.

The chapters also form two distinct sections. Chapters 1–3 trace a trajectory from broad discussions of world literature and print culture to close readings of the journals Drum and Itinerário in Chapter 2 and the interventions of three prominent critics—Lewis Nkosi, Eugénio Lisboa, and Mário de Andrade—in Chapter 3. My interest here is to comprehend the complex transnational dynamics at work in the attempts by writers and intellectuals to overcome conditions of literary marginalization in the 1950s and 1960s. The second section, Chapters 4 and 5, looks at how the materiality of the print medium is used or invoked in the genres of lyrical poetry and realistic prose narrative. Chapter 4 focuses on the rather different but equally significant cases of Rui Knopfli (Mozambique) and Wopko Jensma (South Africa), and Chapter 5 revolves around work by the Angolan writer Castro Soromenho . . .

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