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Black Lives, White Quotation Marks: Textual Constructions of Selfhood in South African Multivoiced Life Writing
Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för språk (SPR).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.
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
Research subject
Humanities, English literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-47544ISBN: 978-91-88761-43-9 (print)ISBN: 978-91-88761-44-6 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hj-47544DiVA, id: diva2:1388670
Public defence
2018-04-06, Homeros, 351 95 Växjö, Växjö, 13:15 (English)
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Available from: 2020-01-27 Created: 2020-01-27 Last updated: 2020-01-29Bibliographically approved

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