White Rose University Consortium logo
University of Leeds logo University of Sheffield logo York University logo

“Lean[ing] into transcendence”: Transformations of the Sacred in South African, Zimbabwean and Nigerian Literatures

Cumpsty, Rebekah Lindiwe Levitt (2016) “Lean[ing] into transcendence”: Transformations of the Sacred in South African, Zimbabwean and Nigerian Literatures. PhD thesis, University of York.

[img] Text
PhD thesis.pdf
Restricted until 13 September 2021.

Request a copy


Enchantment is a defining feature our postcolonial, globalised world and the literary is where much of this wonder is registered and celebrated. Thus this thesis attends to the postcolonial dynamic of sacred and secular experience as it is represented in contemporary African literatures. Debates around the secular and postsecular are long standing in the fields of religious studies, anthropology and philosophy, but as yet underappreciated in literary studies. I develop a hermeneutic of the imminent sacred as a way to read the constitutive and recuperative gestures subjects make as they assert a sense of belonging in spaces of globalised modernity. The texts are grouped thematically. In response to Chris Abani and Yvonne Vera’s work I articulate how the ritual dimensions of lyrical prose and ritual attention to the corporeal form sacralises the body. Phaswane Mpe and Teju Cole incorporate African epistemologies into the resignification of their cities and with Ivan Vladislavić, the streets are sacralised. Marlene van Niekerk and J. M. Coetzee convey the anxieties of settler colonialism and a love of land reinscribed as sublime. Collectively, the novels I discuss reflect patterns of existential anxiety that emerge from difficulties of belonging, and I trace the ritualised and sacralising strategies of incorporation that seek to locate the subject. These novels radically disrupt the epistemological and ontological modalities of globalised ‘secular’ literary production and intervene in the recuperation of the sacred as a mode of incorporation and resistance. Recent scholarship in African literatures has overlooked these distinctly postsecular negotiations and the ways in which the sacred is reinvested in contemporary African fiction in order to instantiate intimate, local alternatives to the teleology of secular modernity. Thus I use the imminent sacred as a reading strategy that foregrounds these postsecular negotiations and the interrelations of care and vulnerability that motivate sacralisation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Sacred, African literature, postcolonial, postsecular
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Rebekah Rebekah Lindiwe Levitt Cumpsty
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2016 13:08
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2016 13:08
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/13953

Please use the 'Request a copy' link(s) above to request this thesis. This will be sent directly to someone who may authorise access.
You can contact us about this thesis. If you need to make a general enquiry, please see the Contact us page.

Actions (repository staff only: login required)