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Grade 11 learners’ engagement with representations of violence in Athol Fugard’s novel, Tsotsi.

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Literature such as Tsotsi has been introduced in public schools in South Africa, with the intention to provide learners with literature with which they are able to relate. However, few studies have been conducted to establish how the learners view the representations of violence within these novels, whether they are able to identify these violent acts within their own lives and whether the violence they have experienced has affected their perceptions of violence within these novels and their lives. This study sets out to answer these questions using a critical paradigm, qualitative approach, and a single case study of 76 grade 11 learners in a school in Newlands East, Durban. This study was anchored in the ideologies of Freire’s critical pedagogy which includes constructing knowledge through the facilitation of meaningful discourse on the power relations and social justice issues in society. In order to generate data for this study, three data generation methods were used which includes an open-ended questionnaire, a written task, and a visual data task, allowing the learners the opportunity to express themselves fully, while ensuring triangulation takes place. The data was then collated and through the structures of the thematic data analysis method, the data was thematically grouped and interpreted. The data indicated that many learners have been exposed to various types of violence, with physical violence being the most easily identified and commonly experienced of all. Sexual violence was commonly identified but seldom experienced by the learners. Learners were also able to identify types of violence found within the novel which included physical, emotional, and sexual violence, as well as abuse and crime. This study emphasises the impact that representations of violence in communities have on the learning and teaching of literature and recognises the importance of teaching literature by understanding learners’ backgrounds and through the ideologies of social justice.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.