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The burden of affliction: a literary analysis of representations of HIV-positive women and girls in selected southern african texts.

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This thesis proceeds from the understanding that literature is the mirror of society, reflecting problematic features, failures to provide social justice, and attempts to live with dignity and hope. Statistics show that Zimbabwe and South Africa have among the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the world, with a prevalence of 18.9% and 12.7% in South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively, of adults afflicted, and women are much more vulnerable to the infection than men. Literary responses give voice to the perception and impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. This thesis examines the fictional representation of HIV-positive women in a sample of four selected Zimbabwean and South African novels. The literary texts that are examined are: Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001), Lutanga Shaba’s Secrets of a Woman’s Soul (2006), Valerie Tagwira’s The Uncertainty of Hope (2006) and Sindiwe Magona’s Beauty’s Gift (2008). The study strives to examine the plight of HIV-positive women through an analysis of the characterisation and the authors’ representations of socio-economic and cultural burdens suffered by these women, as well as their coping mechanisms. My analysis of the agency of women characters in the chosen stories is underpinned by the theory of African feminism, which engages with, critiques and develops Western feminism, hinged on African women’s hostility to Western domination and their heritage in African beliefs and cultures. Lastly, the theoretical concepts of stigma, shame and sexuality will be explored.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.