Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

De-Scribing the Centre: Satiric and Postcolonial Strategies in the Madonna of Excelsior *

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

De-Scribing the Centre: Satiric and Postcolonial Strategies in the Madonna of Excelsior *

Article excerpt


In The Madonna of Excelsior (2002) Zakes Mda makes use of both satiric and postcolonial strategies to create discursive fissures within colonial discourses, with a strong focus on issues of race and the Immorality Act in particular. This essay explores the nature of both satire and postcolonialism as dialogic, heteroglossic textual forms which serve to liberate the subject from the power of hegemonic language, contrasting satire and postcolonialism, and looking at the praxis and the ethics of both discourses in relation to Mda's novel. The essay also points to important contrasts between the two discourses, particularly in the way they deal with identity and language, each of them engaging with social and linguistic issues in ways that evoke differing narratives. It is suggested that postcolonial discourse differs from satiric discourse in the specificity of its commitment to ethical issues, while satire's stance is a less well-defined one, more detached because of the ironic weight which satire carries. Satiric theorists mirror this by showing a detachment which differentiates their narratives from the theoretical discourses of postcolonialism, which are often marked by differences and tensions between various theorists.


In The Madonna of Excelsior (2002) maak Zakes Mda gebruik van satiriese sowel as postkoloniale strategiee om diskursiewe breuke binne die koloniale diskoers te skep, met 'n sterk fokus op rassekwessies en spesifiek op die Ontugwet. Hierdie essay stel ondersoek in na die aard van beide satire en postkolonialisme as dialogiese, heteroglossiewe teksvorme war die onderwerp wil bevry van die mag van hegemoniese taalgebruik. Satire en postkolonialisme word teenoor mekaar gestel en die praktiese toepassing en etiek van beide diskoerse word ondersoek met betrekking tot Mda se roman. Die essay dui ook op belangrike verskille tussen die twee diskoerse, veral in die wyse waarop identiteit en taal hanteer word, en ook op die wyse waarop beide diskoerse sosiale en linguistiese vraagstukke op maniere hanteer wat verskillende vertelwyses ontlok. Daar word te kenne gegee dat die postkoloniale diskoers van die satiriese diskoers verskil ten opsigte van die wyse waarop eersgenoemde hom spesifiek verbind tot etiese vraagstukke, terwyl die uitgangspunt van satire minder duidelik omskrewe en meet afstandig is, as gevolg van die ironiese gewig wat satire dra. Satiriese teoretici weerspieel hierdie standpunt deur 'n afstand te toon wat hul vertelwyses onderskei van die diskoerse van postkolonialisme, wat weer dikwels gekenmerk word deur geskille en spanninge tussen onderskeie teoretici.

In The Madonna of Excelsior (2002), Zakes Mda uses both postcolonial textual strategies and satire to "decentre" South African whites by historicising their dominance and then ridiculing it. The novel deconstructs the discourse of apartheid by focusing on the Immorality Act which forbade sexual acts across the colour line--miscegenation--on the grounds that the purported purity of the white race would be diminished and polluted by such contact. As the producer of a post-colonial text, Mda refuses to replace one set of binaries with another, but instead sets in motion a process of open-ended dialogue between the indignant patriarchalism of the South African state towards the existence of so-called mixed-race people on the one hand, and the subversive delight in creolisation taken by so many postcolonial texts on the other. As Helen Tiffin (1987: 17) remarks, "Decolonization is process, not arrival; it invokes an ongoing dialectic between hegemonic centrist systems and peripheral subversion of them". Postcolonial practice aims to dismantle polarised constructions of alterity and disrupt the stereotypical structures within which colonial discourse flourishes.

"Bhaba has ... asserted that the colonized is constructed within a disabling master discourse of colonialism which specifies a degenerate native population to justify its conquest and subsequent rule" (Ashcroft, Griffiths & Tiffin 1989: 178). …

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