Forms of community service : Guy Butler's literary contributions.
Akal, Anthony Vincent George.
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Guy Butler (1918-2001) was one of South Africa's most prolific English writers. His work extended across several genres. He has hitherto been seen by his critics in terms of neat binaries: Marxists versus liberals, Negritudinists versus 'colonials'. In this study it is argued that a modification of these polarised positions is necessary. Butler's own position is simultaneously one of Oxford scholar and Karoo son, engaged with both the challenges and difficulties of 'local habitation'. By testing these oppositions against the concepts of 'past significance' and 'present praxis' I suggest that Butler is neither simply transcendental nor socially committed, neither simply international nor local. In taking advantage of a 'freer' perspective succeeding the 'struggle' decades in South Africa, I suggest a more inclusive reevaluation of Butler as both artist and public figure serving an inclusive 'imagined community'. Chapter One focuses on Butler's plays, both those published and - for the first time - those unpublished, and examines the texts in the context, locally, of a repressive apartheid regime and, internationally, against the background of the Cold War. What emerges is a writer whose views were neither exclusive nor sectarian, and who was an outspoken critic of injustice, wherever this occurred. Butler's hitherto undervalued contribution to the development of serious drama as an art form in South Africa is given prominence. Chapter Two deals with Butler's poetry. For all his intervention in public debate, it is his poetic expression that reveals his most profound insights. His attempts to "take root" in a local habitation are scrutinised, and it is argued that the poetry has been misunderstood by many of his critics, especially those on the Left. Besides his "compulsion to belong", the study explores the twin search of Butler for an African synthesis through his utilisation of the Apollo-Dionysus paradigm, and his 'eschatological imperative'. While attempting to adapt European forms and sensibilities to African experience his poetry - it is argued - also seeks to heal the divisions of a fragmented South African society. In Chapter Three Butler's cultural projects are examined. It is argued that his cultural narrative is not one of separation but of integration premised (in his own words) on a "common humanity". Several projects are scrutinised in the context of post-1960 Republican South Africa, where National Party policies attempted to impose crushing political and social hegemonies on the English community as well as on all communities of colour. While Butler's immediate aims were to ensure the survival of the English language and English cultural identity, the scope of his cultural projects reveals that his 'imagined community' extended to all South Africans: his vision was not one of elite cultural separation, but of egalitarian integration. Butler's achievements in his many and varied forms of service are considered as having contributed to the formation of a new, democratic society in South Africa.