Exploring the representation of culture, sexuality and gender in two literary texts prescribed for KwaZulu-Natal Grade twelve learners.
This study systematically analysed two literary texts of contemporary and historical fiction prescribed for grade twelve learners. In the context of an increasingly multiracial and multicultural society, this study was primarily concerned with the question of culture, sexuality and gender representation of male and female in literary texts. The following research question was explored: ● How are female and male characters portrayed in the two literary texts prescribed for grade twelve learners in KwaZulu-Natal schools, in relation to culture, sexuality and gender? The two selected literary texts were evaluated with respect to the criteria of the categories. The two literary texts were selected for deep literary analysis, demonstrating the ways in which historical perspectives about culture, sexuality and gender of male and female inform contemporary learners’ literature. The study used critical literacy theory as an analytical framework. Content analysis methodology, particularly relational content analysis, was used to analyse the selected texts. Four thematic categories were created to frame the findings based on historical paradigms about culture, sexuality and gender. The themes that emerged from the two literary texts are: I. Recycled social scripts and stereotypes, II. Power, powerlessness and resistance, III. Institutional and systemic fallacy and IV. One best model. The four themes of the findings indicate broad trends in representations of culture, sexuality and gender in learners’ literature with the two selected literary texts falling almost equally between the four thematic categories. The study argues that literary texts in the multicultural/racial in/visibility category depict stereotypically traumatic experiences for multicultural/racial characters and provide little or no opportunity for critique of racism. Literary texts in a mixed cultural, sexuality, and gender blending category feature characters whose mixed cultural and racial profile is descriptive but not functional in their lives. Multicultural/racial awareness in literary texts represent a range of possible life experiences for bicultural/racial characters who respond to social discomfort to their cultural, sexuality and gender in complex but credible ways. Recommendations include, but not limited to, that teachers need to be sensitive to the literary texts as teaching materials so that they do not easily fall into a passive acceptance of everything literature presents to them. Teachers should then engage in vigilant and critical reading practices rather than dominant or conventional and conformist reading practices to help learners uncover, if any, the gender inequalities, sexuality biases and cultural misrepresentations that might be present in the texts. A further study is encouraged in analysing the ideological disposition and trends for the publishing houses whose texts get to be prescribed in schools for learner consumption.
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