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Forging a New South Africa: Plagiarism and the National Imaginary

Highman, KB (2011) Forging a New South Africa: Plagiarism and the National Imaginary. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis explores debates about plagiarism in post-apartheid South Africa, focussing on two highly-publicised cases, Antje Krog’s Country of My Skull and Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness. Through close reading, and by presenting such reading as culturally meaningful rather than forensic, I argue that in each text plagiarism acts as a contestation of cultural authority and a type of symbolic violence. Each text consciously affiliates itself to a particular literary tradition, occluding those sources that trouble the limits of these traditions, and re-appropriating cultural prestige. Re-establishing context illuminates the violent transculturations that underwrite South African cultural production and how national literatures are fields of contestation, rather than organically developing, self-contained formations. Chapter One considers the dispute between Stephen Watson and Krog over their respective poeticisations of |Xam narratives, contextualising it within a long history of appropriative white writing about indigenous peoples. Chapter Two considers Krog’s alleged plagiarisms in Country of My Skull; notes other instances of unacknowledged copying; and relates Krog’s borrowings to her use of testimony, arguing that a number of testimonies are fictionalised, and that Krog's borrowings and fictionalisations work together to lend her text a first-hand authenticity marked as specifically African. Chapter Three considers Mda’s alleged plagiarism of Jeff Peires’s The Dead Will Arise and notes how, contrary to Mda’s claim that there is no written record for the Khoikhoi stories he retells in his novel, there is one, Theophilus Hahn’s Tsuni-||Goam. Mda’s borrowings serve to reinscribe an originary Xhosa identity, relatively uninflected by Christian,colonial influence, and to affiliate his work with African orature, rather than print culture. The afterword comments on the wider cultural and ethical implications of plagiarism; the ‘counter-narratives’ that Krog and Mda’s borrowings reveal; and the relationship of their borrowings to the metaphorical ‘forging’ of a ‘new’ South Africa in post-apartheid authorship.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Ms KB Highman
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2012 09:20
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2426

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