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On the inside writing out : the dramatic represention of the private boys' boarding school on the South African stage.

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This dissertation sets out to analyze the manner in which the writers of dramatic fiction deconstruct the mythology and ideology of the private boys' boarding school in their work. It also seeks to interrogate the sociological and philosophical notions that underpin this fictional work. The central thrust of this dissertation is to explore the representation of the private boys' boarding school experience on the South African stage, with particular reference to writers whose work reflects their personal experiences within such institutions. Private boys' boarding schools promote the ideology that they provide a superior education based on liberal and democratic principles. These institutions supposedly oversee the development of the individual's mental, physical, spiritual, cultural and social education. The projected ideology of the private boys' boarding schools has become entrenched and has manifested itself as a pervasive mythology, which glorifies and glamourises the social reality of such institutions. This mythology is challenged and refuted by the appropriation of various sociological, and philosophical theorists, including: traditional Marxist critiques such as the theories of Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis (1976); structuralist theories such as those proposed by Louis Althusser (1971) and Antonio Gramsci (1971), whose notions of hegemony carry much relevance when considering private boys' boarding schools; and finally, Michel Foucault's (1977) theories of power and power hierarchies (Lotringer, 1989; Smart, 1985). Since South Africa's democratization in 1994, a number of fictional works have emerged that have engaged with the social reality of private boys' boarding schools. Most notably, two plays, Anthony Akerman's Old Boys (2000) and John van de Ruit's War Cry (1999), have highlighted issues surrounding private boys' boarding schools in South Africa. Together with a variety of texts written for different media these works have formed a critical base that, to some degree, has undermined the supremely positive resonance of the entrenched private school mythology, and in so doing, challenge the projected ideology. This dissertation's prime focus is on South African private boys' boarding schools; however, it also includes texts that articulate the social reality of private education in England and America. These texts are relevant firstly because the South African private schools are modeled very closely on the English public school system and secondly, because their inclusion adds weight and variety to the discussion. Important areas of study within this dissertation will be the interpretation of the various thematic concerns raised, and character constructions created by the various writers. This will be underpinned by the theoretical framework, which analyzes systems of power and power hierarchies, and the notion of hegemonic masculinity. Finally, the private boys' boarding school will be examined as a site for hegemonic struggle where power and privilege are continually contested in a relationship characterized by coercion and consent. The critical discourse of the fictional texts and its theoretical underpinning will be placed in opposition to the elitist mythology of the private boys' boarding school and the ideology that these institutions espouse.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Durban, 2001.


Van de Ruit, John. War Cry., Education in literature., Boys--Education--South Africa., Boys in literature., Theses--English., South African drama (English)--History and criticism., Akerman, Anthony. Old Boys., James, Compton. Crowd of Twisted Things., Michaelhouse School.