In a Province: Studies in the Writing of South Africa

BookIn a Province: Studies in the Writing of South Africa

In a Province: Studies in the Writing of South Africa

by Graham Pechey


January 19th, 2022



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The distinguished South African scholar and critic Graham Pechey was one of the leading voices in the debates about literature’s role in the apartheid state, and he continued to reflect influentially on its importance and function after the establishment of democracy. Pechey died in 2016 without putting the finishing touches on a book on South African literature and culture that had been some twenty years in the making. He wrote on a wide range of South African literature across the racial divide and across periods, combining an acute sense of the historical and geopolitical situation of South African writing with a sensitive ear to the workings of the literary; he was thus able to do justice to both the singular grain of individual works and their broad political and cultural implications. This collection brings together the most significant of these essays, organised in a way that reflects his major concerns. Topics addressed include the role of culture in the transition from apartheid to democracy, the specificity of English as a literary medium in South Africa, the freedom of the artist in an authoritarian state, and the global trajectory of South African words. Among the authors discussed are Olive Schreiner, Njabulo Ndebele, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, William Plomer, F.T. Prince, and Roy Campbell.

- Brings together the scattered essays of a leading critic of South African literature and culture. - Carefully scrutinizes the lineaments of South African culture in its political settings. - Offers a probing analysis of the place of South African literature in the transition from apartheid to democracy. - Discusses a range of leading South African writers, from Olive Schreiner to Njabulo Ndebele, J.M. Coetzee, and Roy Campbell. - Combines an acute sense of the historical and geopolitical situation of South African writing before, during, and after apartheid with a sensitive ear to literary detail. - Draws on Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary and cultural thought in reading South African writing.

"This is a richly rewarding volume that confirms Graham Pechey’s status as brilliant critic, thoughtful cultural commentator, and erudite literary historian. The editors have done us a great service in bringing to publication a range of essays -- written across nearly three decades -- that prove a fitting memorial, and will introduce Pechey’s work to the wide readership it deserves."
Andrew van der Vlies, University of Adelaide”

Author Information

Derek Attridge is Emeritus Professor in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York. Laura Pechey studied English at the University of KwaZulu Natal before completing her English degree at the University of Leeds and a PhD on animals in nineteenth- and twentieth-century South African writing at the University of Cambridge.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Biographical note by Laura Pechey
Introduction by Derek Attridge
Part One: South African Literature in Transition: 1990-1998
1. ‘Cultural Struggle’ and the Narratives of South African Freedom
2. Post-Apartheid Narratives
3. The Post-Apartheid Sublime: Rediscovering the Extraordinary
4. Carnal Knowledge: Reading the Body of South African Writing
5. Post-Apartheid Reason: Critical Theory in South Africa
Part Two: Fiction before and after Apartheid
6. The Story of an African Farm: Colonial History and the Discontinuous Text
7. Antithetical Anti-Heroes: Uses of the Past in Schoeman and Matthee
8. The Criticism of Njabulo S. Ndebele
9. ‘The Woman’s Rose’: Olive Schreiner, the Short Story and Grand History
10. Coetzee’s Purgatorial Africa: The Case of Disgrace
Part Three: The Language of South African Poetry
11. ‘A complex and violent revelation’: Epiphanies of Africa in South African Literature
12. Roy Campbell, F. T. Prince and the Lexicon of Emigration
13. Periphrases, Portmanteaux, and Plurals: Aspects of Roy Campbell’s Poetic Diction