A genealogical history of English studies in South Africa : with special reference to the responses by South African academic literary criticism to the emergence of an indigenous South African literature.
Doherty, Christopher Malcolm William.
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This thesis examines certain social and institutional forces that have shaped the outlooks and procedures of English departments in South Africa. The approach taken is based on the researches of Michel Foucault, notably his genealogical approach to history, and his view of the university as an institution within a broader "disciplinary society" that controls discourse in the interests of existi~g power relations in that society and not out of a concern with disinterested truth. It is argued that English departments are contingent, historically constituted products whose genealogies continue to have serious consequences for struggles around contemporary issues, notably the reception of indigenous South African writing. The first chapter examines the beginnings of the institutionalised study of English literature in England. This inquiry reveals that English literature became the subject of academic.study as a result of conflict between opposing interests in the university and the social world of nineteenth century J England. It also points to the existence of a "discursive space", an inherently unstable area, which the emergent subject of English was forced to occupy as a result of the ezisting arrang~ment of disciplines in the university. Chapter Two analyses the decisive contribution made by I. A Richards a9d the importance of practical criticism for the humanist enterprise of English studies. F. R. Leavis's adaptation of practical criticism is also examined with a view to understanding its consequences for English studies in South Africa. Chapter Three examines the early history of English studies in South Africa and assesses the impact of metropolitan developments on the manner in which the discipline was constituted in this country. Chapter Four focuses on the effect of metropolitan developments on the conceptualisation and study of a South African literature. Chapter Five examines descriptions of sub traditions of South African literature that were offered during the 1960s and '70s and concludes by offering an analysis of the radical critique of English studies that appeared at the end of the decade. The thesis concludes that the radical critique was largely unsuccessful for a number of reasons, one being the lack of a genealogical analysis. It is suggested that the manner in which English studies was historically constituted, and its mode of institutional existence, pose a perhaps intrinsic obstacle to the study and teaching of indigenous writing.
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