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"How do I understand myself in this text-tortured land?" : identity, belonging and textuality in Antjie Krog's A change of tongue, Down to my last skin and Body bereft.

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This thesis explores the question, “What literary strategies can be employed to allow as many people as possible to identify themselves positively with South Africa as a nation and a country?”. I focus in particular on the possibilities for identification open to white South African women, engaging with Antjie Krog's English texts, A Change of Tongue, Down to My Last Skin and Body Bereft. I seek to identify the textual strategies, such as a fluid structure, shifts between genre and a multiplicity of points of view, which Krog employs to examine this topic, and to highlight the ways in which the literary text is able to facilitate a fuller engagement with issues of difference and belonging in society than other discursive forms. I also consider several theoretical concepts, namely supplementarity, displacement and diaspora, that I believe offer useful ways of understanding the transformation of individual subjectivity within a transitional society. I then explore the ways in which women identify with, and thereby create their own space within, the nation. I investigate the ways in which Krog represents women in A Change of Tongue, and discuss how Krog uses „the body‟ as a theoretical site and a performative medium through which to explore the possibilities, and the limitations, for identification with the nation facing white South African women. I also propose that by writing „the body‟, Krog foregrounds her own act of writing thereby highlighting the construction and representation of her „self‟ through the text. I proceed to consider Krog's use of poetry as a textual strategy that enables her to explore the nuances of these themes in ways which prose does not allow. I propose that lyric poetry, as a mode of expression which emphasises the allusive, the imaginative or the affective, has a capacity to render in language those experiences, emotions and sensations that are often considered intangible or elusive. Through a selection of poems from Down to My Last Skin and Body Bereft, I examine the way in which Krog constantly re-writes the themes of belonging and identity, as well as interrogate Krog's use of poetry as a strategy that permits both the writer and the reader access to new ways of understanding experiences, in particular the way apparently ephemeral experiences can be rooted in the body. I also briefly consider the significance of the act of translation in relation to the reading of Krog's poems. I conclude by suggesting that in A Change of Tongue, Down to My Last Skin and Body Bereft Krog engages with the project of “[writing] the white female experience back into the body of South African literature” (Jacobson “No Woman” 18), and in so doing offers possible ways in which white South African women can claim a sense of belonging within society as well as ways in which they can challenge, resist, re-construct and create their identities both as women, and as South Africans.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2006.


South African literature--Women authors--History and criticism., South African poetry--20th century--History and criticism., Human body in literature., White women--South Africa--Race identity., Whites--South Africa--Race identity., Theses--Media and cultural studies.