1st Edition

On Literary Attachment in South Africa Tough Love

By Michael Chapman Copyright 2022
    206 Pages
    by Routledge

    206 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book reflects on the "literary" in literature. Less ideologically construed, more affirmative of literary attachment, the study adopts a style of intimacy – its "tough love" – in a correlation between the creative work and the critical act. Instead of configuring literary works to "state-of-the-nation" issues – the usual approach to literature from South Africa – the chapters keep alive a space for conversation, whether accented inwards to locality or outwards to the Anglophone world: the world to which literature in South Africa continues to belong, albeit as a "problem child".

    A postcolony that is not quite a postcolony, South Africa is richly but frustratingly textured between Africa and the West, or the South and the North. Its literature – hovering on the cusp of its locality and its global reach – raises peculiar questions of reader reception, epistemological and aesthetic frame, and archival use. Are the Nobel laureates Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee local writers or global writers? Is the novel or the short story the more appropriate form at the edges of metropolitan cultures? Given language, race, and culture contestation, how do we recover Bushman expression for contemporary use? How to consider the aesthetic appeal of two contemporaneous works, one in English the other in isiXhosa, the one indebted to Bloomsbury modernism the other to African custom? How does Douglas Livingstone attach the Third World to the First World in both science and poetry? What has a "born free" novelist, Kopano Matlwa, got to do with the Bard of Avon? In a time of theorisation, is it permissible for Lewis Nkosi to embody literary criticism in an autobiographical journey? How to read the rupturing event – the statue of Rhodes must fall – through a literary sensibility?

    Alert to the influence of critique, the study is equally alert to the "limits of critique". Reflecting on several writers, works, and events that do not feature in current publications, On Literary Attachment in South Africa releases literature to speak to us today, within the contours of its originating energy.


    1. André Brink, Mevrou Sadie, and Me

    Our Crooked-line Stories

    2. Bushman Letters/Bushman Literature

    Usable and Unusable Pasts

    3. Schreiner’s Karoo, Blackburn’s Jo’burg

    A Literary Journey, Then and Now

    4. A School Person in a Red Blanket

    The Case of S.E.K. Mqhayi

    5. Lewis Nkosi

    Ambiguities of Home and Exile

    6. The Potential and Limitations of Symptomatic Criticism

    Ruth Miller’s Poetry

    7. Who Wins a Nobel Prize?

    Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee

    8. Who Doesn’t Win a Nobel Prize?

    Gordimer, Coetzee, Bosman, Head

    9. The Power of …

    Nelson Mandela: A Literary Consideration

    10. The Science of Poetry and the Poetry of Science

    Douglas Livingstone’s Uncommon Humanity

    11. To Be a Coconut

    Kopano Matlwa to the Bard of Avon

    12. #RhodesMustFall!

    On Literary Attachment and the Rupturing Event


    Michael Chapman is affiliated to the Durban University of Technology as a researcher-in-residence. He is also a professor emeritus and fellow of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His numerous publications include Southern African literatures (1996, 2003), Art talk, politics talk (2006), and Green in black-and-white times (2016). He is the compiler and editor of The new century of South African poetry (3rd edn 2018).