Changing form and political purpose in selected works of Ronnie Govender.
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This dissertation explores changing form and political purpose in selected works of Ronnie Govender, by analysing reasons for the shifts in Govender’s choice of genre, and the effects of these genre shifts in his work. Govender is unusual in that he has chosen to recast certain of his most popular works into different genres, throwing up questions of context and impact as associated with these works. The investigation of a selection of Govender’s works that have appeared in at least two genres over a period of change in South Africa allows for an examination of political impact on Govender’s works both during and post apartheid. This study will be analysed within a range of theatre ‘isms’ and theories which influenced Govender’s skills in the theatre. These are important to situate Govender as, firstly, in his early career, a theatre practitioner. Attention will be given to Constantin Stanislavski and the Method Acting Theory, (1937) as the philosophies advocated by Stanislavski were particularly useful to Govender for the staging and performance of his plays. Reference will be made to the ‘Theatre of Commitment’, Community Theatre, Indigenous Theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed and Epic Theatre, as elements of these theories feature in Govender’s writing and stage performances. Some focus will also be given to Zakes Mda (1993), as both Mda and Govender are associated with the ‘Theatre of Commitment’, and share a vision of socio-political change through theatre and literature. As contributors to the South African literary canon, Mda and Govender continuously reinvent themselves through their experimentation with form which results in them consistently producing new works. In addition, this dissertation also examines audience reception of Govender’s stage performances and reader reception in his texts, and this allows for a brief investigation into Reception Theory. The theories of Wolfgang Iser (1978), Stanley Fish (1980) Hans Robert Jauss (in Bahti 1982) and Susan Bennett (1990) will be referred to in so far as they inform the reception of the works selected for the purposes of this study. In order to contextualise Govender as a writer of both plays and prose, a brief biography of his life and his work will be undertaken. The findings of researchers such as Rajendra Chetty (2002) and Pallavi Rastogi (2008) who have studied the work of South African Indian writers will be drawn on in order to contextualise Govender’s writing particularly and his position as a South African Indian writer generally. This dissertation assesses Govender’s contribution to the South African canon, and forwards him as an example of a South African writer who is pointing to new directions in writing. The fictional works selected for this dissertation which best illustrate political purpose, changing form and the changing dynamics of reader-audience response, include The Lahnee’s Pleasure as play, The Lahnee’s Pleasure as novel; “1949”, first as short story then as play; and “At the Edge”, first as short story then as play. These works which have appeared as both play and prose (novel and short story) have been chosen for their versatility and suitability to different genres and because Govender has chosen to recast them in new forms. Reasons for this will be explored.