"Whenever I have taught South African literature to U.S. undergraduates, I have been pleased but also disturbed by the way they were moved and shocked by the readings (for instance, by Brink's Dry White Season). It seemed to me that their strong reaction was not all good — that it had in it an element of voyeuristic and distancing horror at 'racism's last word.' My solution has always been to discuss a poem by Peter Horn ("I'm Getting Famous, Sort Of") which underlines the danger of writing political poems which audiences find 'soothingly shocking.' Professor Jolly's book addresses this danger directly. One might say her critical project is to explode the idea of the 'soothingly shocking,' and to indicate an alternative approach to reading and writing about violence: an approach which might ensure that neither the critic nor the novelist remain transfixed at the door of the 'dark chamber' of the state's most despicable secret practices."
Rita Barnard, University of Pennsylvania
The representation of pain and suffering in narrative form is an ongoing ethical issue in contemporary South African literature. Can violence be represented without sensationalistic effects, or, alternatively, without effects that tend to be conservative because they place the reader in a position of superiority over the victim or the perpetrator?
Jolly looks at three primary South African authors—André Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, and J. M. Coetzee—to consider violence in the context of apartheid and colonialism and their inherent patriarchies.
Jolly also discusses the violence attendant upon the act of narration in the broader context of critiques of Kafka, Freud, Hegel, the postcolonial critics Jan Mohamed and Bhabha, and feminists such as Susan Suleiman.
Rosemary Jane Jolly, Assistant Professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, lived in southern Africa for twenty years, both in South Africa and Lesotho. Her research is in the area of racial and sexual violence in postcolonial writing.
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