Academic journal article ARIEL

Marking Locality: Inscribing Gendered Subjectivity through Kgebetli Moele's Untitled

Academic journal article ARIEL

Marking Locality: Inscribing Gendered Subjectivity through Kgebetli Moele's Untitled

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article approaches Kgebetli Moele's Untitled: A Novel (2013) as a distinctive instance of writing locality and feminine subjectivity through literary experimentation. Drawing together insights on world literature, globalization and locality, and experimental writing in South Africa, my reading of Untitled demonstrates how the subject position of the main character, like the novel itself, emerges at the crossroads of different forms as they circulate among multiple localities. Analyzing how the novel experiments with narrative, form, punctuation, and subject formation in relation to African literary imaginaries, I suggest that the poetics of Untitled inscribe a (black) feminine subject position against dominant narrative conventions of gendered violation and within the interstices of globality and locality.

Keywords: experimental literature, globalization, postcolonial novel, South African literature, gendered subjectivity, locality


If locality is produced through globalization, as Arjun Appadurai argues, then the processes that constitute subjectivity are mediated globally. In Modernity at Large Appadurai discusses the ways that convergences and divergences (articulated via the nation-state, diasporic flows, and electronic and virtual communities) produce locality as difference through the work of the imagination in local subjectivities (198). He makes a similar argument in "How Histories Make Geographies," in which he also calls for "a theory that relates the forms of circulation to the circulation of forms" (4). Although he includes literature among the cultural objects that produce locality in these ways, he does not elaborate on specific examples. An elaboration of this kind would, however, offer a productive counterpoint to more familiar models of the global and the local in paradigms of world literature. For example, Appadurai's framework would pressure Franco Moretti's contention that the novel is an inherently European form that adapts to "local" content in non-European locales. In this article I extend Appadurai's insights regarding the production of locality in the globalizing world to debates about world literature that have emerged in the wake of Moretti's theoretical framework. This approach instigates a reading of Kgebetli Moele's Untitled: A Novel (2013) that demonstrates how experimental fiction may challenge the view that "local" content fails to alter the "European" form of the novel. Following the novel as it works through themes of sexual violence by experimenting with form and content, I argue that Untitled generates a textual (symbolic) subject position that diverges from the subjectivities produced in European modernism and the more familiar novels associated with globalization.

Touted as a new voice in South African fiction, Mode has attracted considerable critical attention. His "devil-may-care humour" (Rosenthal qtd. in Mode) and "gangster approach" (Olukotun qtd. in Mode) (1) seem to satisfy the desires of his publisher, Kwela, which came of age with the "new" South Africa in 1994 and strives "to document stories that have not yet been told" (Kwela). Mode's first novel, Room 207 (2006), focuses on six young men who share a flat as they hustle to make a living in Hillbrow. (2) Whereas it features a neighborhood and subject matter familiar to South African fiction, his second novel, The Book of the Dead (2009), pushes the boundaries of the familiar in the way it experiments with point of view by taking the perspective of the AIDS virus toward the end of the novel. Untitled: A Novel is not only Moele's most experimental novel to date, but its setting is also rather unconventional. Untitled moves away from the urban frenzy of Johannesburg to a fictional rural "location" (also known as a township (3)), called Teyageneng.

Teyageneng bears significant resemblance to other postcolonial locales shaped in complex ways by the high-speed networks and fast-paced financial flows of the globalizing world. …

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