"We Have Passed the Time of Decay*" : South African Literature and Culture Before, During, and After Apartheid
In 1994, South Africa finally welcomed a change of government when Nelson Mandela came to power and the barriers of apartheid were removed. The fall of the apartheid state has led to majority rule, to the recovery of previously suppressed literature and culture, and to the canonization of formally marginalized South African writers of color. Much of South African literature today promotes political awareness by drawing on the culture, the community, and the works of the previously politically repressed.
In this course, students will examine South African history and literature, particularly the literature produced during the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. Students will delve into the history behind the literature produced by writers in the apartheid state and by marginalized writers who crafted their works subversively. We will read works by authors such as Nobel Prize winners Nelson Mandela, Nadine Gordimer and J. M. Coetzee. We will also read texts by Phaswane Mpe, Richard Rive, Athol Fugard, Bessie Head, Njabulo Ndebele, and Zakes Mda in an attempt to understand how South African writers responded to the system of apartheid and to the political freedom that came about after apartheid's demise. Additionally, students will watch some South African movies and will consider how film producers responded to the iniquitous apartheid situation. Movie selections will include Tsotsi, District Nine, and Yesterday. We will also enjoy an introduction to South African food and music.
Through a variety of reading, writing, and discussion activities, students will develop an understanding of South African politics and an awareness of social injustice as they consider how literature and politics mutually influenced one another within the South African political context.
*Karen Press, "Guess Who"(The New Century of South African Poetry, 448).