Repository logo

Degrees of transgression: the writing of South African Black Women Writers Miriam Tlali, Ellen Kuzwayo, Sindiwe Magona and Zoe Wicomb.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This thesis examines the English autobiographical and fictional writing of four black South African women writers: Miriam Tlali, Ellen Kuzwayo, Sindiwe Magona and Zoe Wicomb. The introductory chapter provides a theoretical overview of the principle strands of feminism available to the South African feminist critic - French feminism, with its theoretical emphasis and "symptomatic" interpretation of texts; the American brand of "h'beral" feminism which tends to embody a more socio-historical, empirical approach; Materialist feminism which emphasises socio-economic conditions in the course of its analysis; and "womanism,11 an alternative to "western" feminism which .fili.ds considerable support in African and Afi:ican-Afireficm feminist 􀁩cir-Jes. These different theories are examined in order to formulate a mode of analysis to be applied to the writing of the four black South African women, an approach which draws on aspects of all these theories and takes cognisance of other factors unique to the South Afiican ord to most productively illumina e those aspects of the writers' work chosen for discussion. Following this opening chapter the thesis goes on to explore the writing of each of the four black South African women in tum. Each chapter contains an introductory section which provides biographical background on the writer under discussion as well as some insight into that individual's perspectives and opinions, usually drawn from their interviews, speeches and critical essays. This is followed by an analysis of their writing which deals with each book in tum: Tlali's two novels and short story collection, Kuzwayo's autobiography and collection of "oral" narratives, the two "volumes" of Magona's autobiography and her short fiction anthology and, finally, Wicomb's short fiction cycle and two individually published short stories. There are several issues with which this thesis is concerned in the course of analysing the writing of these women. These include an exploration of the positioning of black women through the interaction of the discourses of race, class and gender; a focus on how the various writers reflect on or construct a sense of their own identities; an examination of the situations in which they CDmplicate and/or transgress the dominant patriarchal societal attitude􀀆, riorities and codes of behaviour wliich they are "expected" to adhere to􀁘 as well as a concentration on the writers' sense of the lives and needs of other black women in tlieir communities. Such concerns are accompanied by a pervasive interest in attempting to identify and examine the tensions, ambiguities and contradictions which emerge (insidiously or dehberately) at various moments in the texts of these writers. The chapters are organised to chart what is perceived to be a progression among the various writers, in part marked by their increasingly sophisticated and more overtly feminist treatment of themes and issues concerning the "fictional" and "rel!t identities and/or lives ofblack women within South African society.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.