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Black Lives, White Quotation Marks: Textual Constructions of Selfhood in South African Multivoiced Life Writing
Linnéuniversitetet, Växjö.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6726-9990
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis focuses on South African multivoiced and collaborative life writing. The analysed primary texts are The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena (1980) by Elsa Joubert, The Calling of Katie Makanya: A Memoir of South Africa (1995) by Margaret McCord, Finding Mr Madini (1999) by Jonathan Morgan and the Great African Spiderwriters, David’s Story (2000) by Zoë Wicomb, and There Was This Goat: Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile (2009), co-written by Antjie Krog, Nosisi Mpolweni and Kopano Ratele. All of these primary texts are either collaborative autobiographies about black lives, multivoiced life writing texts about black lives, or a text that problematises this kind of life writing where predominantly disadvantaged, black life writing subjects either have had their lives narrated or have had their narration steered by well educated, advantaged, Westernised and usually white writers.

The analyses of the primary texts are carried out by problematising them in the light of the South African historical and cultural context within which they were produced. The focus of the analyses is on the effects on and the consequences for textual constructions of selfhood when the writers tell or include the life writing subjects’ lives in the life writing texts. The involvement of the writers in the life writing projects is argued to greatly have impacted the textually represented selves that were created in the resulting multivoiced life writing texts.

Drawing on theory rooted in postcolonial studies, life writing in general, and self-narration in particular, this thesis concludes that the examined black South African life narratives to various extents are told on white, Western terms and thus inserted in white quotation marks. White quotation marks are defined in this thesis as a certain Western perception of self-narration and selfhood, consisting of components rooted in language, racial tropes, narrative form, and Western autobiographical traditions. Both writers and life writing subjects have been involved in creating or employing these white quotation marks. In some cases this has been an unintentional result and in other cases it has been a conscious effort.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Växjö: Linnaeus University Press, 2018.
Series
Linnaeus University Dissertations ; 314/2018
Keywords [en]
Antjie Krog, collaborative autobiography, collaborative life writing, Elsa Joubert, Jonathan Morgan, Kopano Ratele, Margaret McCord, multivoiced life writing, Nosisi Mpolweni, selfhood, South Africa, Zoë Wicomb
National Category
General Literature Studies Specific Languages
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-34743ISBN: 978-91-88761-43-9 (print)ISBN: 978-91-88761-44-6 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-34743DiVA, id: diva2:1257269
Public defence
2018-04-06, Växjö, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-10-22 Created: 2018-10-19 Last updated: 2018-10-22Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Complex Collaborations: Elsa Joubert’s The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena and Zoë Wicomb’s David’s Story
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Complex Collaborations: Elsa Joubert’s The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena and Zoë Wicomb’s David’s Story
2014 (English)In: Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, ISSN 0004-1327, Vol. 45, no 1-2, p. 221-245Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This essay examines how South African author Zoë Wicomb’s novel David’s Story (2001) critiques collaborative life writing. More specifically, it argues that the faltering collaboration between the protagonists David and the unnamed amanuensis in David’s Story serves as an illuminating critique of past collaborative works such as Elsa Joubert’s The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena (1980) by shifting the focus from the end product to the collaborative writing process that precedes it. The analyses in this essay reveal that the fallibility of language demonstrated in Wicomb’s novel serves as a reminder of the impossibility of the narrative project that the amanuensis and David have set out to work on. Moreover, this essay argues that Wicomb’s novel highlights what can be unequal power relations between an amanuensis and an autobiographical subject in a collaborative writing process.

National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-34740 (URN)10.1353/ari.2014.0004 (DOI)
Available from: 2018-10-19 Created: 2018-10-19 Last updated: 2018-10-22Bibliographically approved
2. Creating a Collaborative Community: Problems and Possibilities of Collaborative Autobiographical Writing in Jonathan Morgan's Finding Mr Madini
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Creating a Collaborative Community: Problems and Possibilities of Collaborative Autobiographical Writing in Jonathan Morgan's Finding Mr Madini
2015 (English)In: Global Community?: Transnational and Transdisciplinary Exchanges / [ed] Henrik Eneroth, Douglas Brommesson, London: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015, 1, p. 79-98Chapter in book (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015 Edition: 1
Keywords
Global community, collaborative autobiography, Jonathan Morgan, Finding Mr Madini
National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-34741 (URN)9781783484720 (ISBN)
Available from: 2018-10-19 Created: 2018-10-19 Last updated: 2018-10-22Bibliographically approved
3. Collaboratively Writing a Self: Textual Strategies in Margaret McCord's The Calling of Katie Makanya: A Memoir of South Africa
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Collaboratively Writing a Self: Textual Strategies in Margaret McCord's The Calling of Katie Makanya: A Memoir of South Africa
2015 (English)In: Research in African Literatures, ISSN 0034-5210, E-ISSN 1527-2044, Vol. 46, no 2, p. 70-84Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper analyzes The Calling of Katie Makanya (1995) by Margaret McCord as a collaborative autobiography. Katie’s motive for wanting her story to be told is not a desire to find her own voice and identity through narration, but seemingly rather to add to and complete the picture presented in the narrative My Patients Were Zulus (1946), written by Katie’s employer and Margaret McCord’s father, Dr. James B. McCord. Moreover, Margaret McCord is portrayed in The Calling of Katie Makanya as finding it problematic as a white woman to write a black woman’s story. Using the theories of Judith Butler, the analyses show that the context of the narrative’s emergence creates a complex framing of The Calling of Katie Makanya. This paper aims to highlight and examine instances where the effects of this complex framing rise to the surface of the text and create tensions in the narrative.

Keywords
Collaborative autobiography, Margaret McCord, James McCord, Katie Makanya, South Africa
National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-34739 (URN)10.2979/reseafrilite.46.2.70 (DOI)
Available from: 2018-10-19 Created: 2018-10-19 Last updated: 2018-10-22Bibliographically approved
4. Narrating an Other and Each Other: Collaborative Constructions of Selfhood in There Was This Goat : Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Narrating an Other and Each Other: Collaborative Constructions of Selfhood in There Was This Goat : Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile
2018 (English)In: Life Writing, ISSN 1448-4528, E-ISSN 1751-2964, Vol. 15, no 2, p. 243-254Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of this article is to examine the textual constructions of selfhood in the South African narrative There Was This Goat: Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile (2009), co-authored by Antjie Krog, Nosisi Mpolweni and Kopano Ratele. There Was This Goat is dedicated to understanding Mrs Konile and her Truth and Reconciliation Commission testimony given in Xhosa, a testimony which many found incomprehensible. I trace and read Mrs Konile through the lens of Judith Butler and her ideas about self-narration and through Sarah Nuttall’s concept of entanglement. These two approaches underline the social aspects of both self-narration and identity formation through narration, and therefore assist me in approaching the authors as simultaneous characters in the text, recipients of Mrs Konile’s narrative, and creators of the textually represented Mrs Konile. The authors’ dual function as writers of and characters within the narrative is an important factor which has been only briefly considered in much of the previous scholarly research on this multivoiced life writing text. This article argues that Mrs Konile is disempowered by the structure of the narrative, which positions her as a passive object of study rather than an active subject of her own life narrative.

Keywords
Notrose Nobomvu Konile, There Was This Goat, collaborative life writing, South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission
National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-34742 (URN)10.1080/14484528.2017.1345292 (DOI)
Available from: 2018-10-19 Created: 2018-10-19 Last updated: 2018-10-22Bibliographically approved

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