The white English-speaking South Africans contemporary dilemmas and responses in South African English poetry

The aim of this dissertation is to offer a close, critical examination of the particular dilemmas and responses of concempocary white English-speaking South Africans as these are reflected in South African English poetry. This aim ought not to be construed as a denial of the legitimate claims of other ethnic groups for attention; nor should it in any way be interpreted as an attempt to reinforce artificial racial categories or to bolster restrictive barriers between communities. The purpose, rather is to help advance mutual understanding and awareness by focussing on the specific problems of a complex and intriguing, yet strangely neglected group of people in this country. By examining the difficulties facing the white English- speaking group as registered and articulated in the work of South African English poets, this dissertation moves beyond a purely sociological account of the group. The dissertation will include both a study of the direct critique by South African English poets of the dilemmas and responses of their white English- speaking countrymen, as well as an investigation of the ways in which the poets themselves, consciously or otherwise, have responded as white English-speaking South Africans in their poetry to these dilemmas. The understanding of the white English-speaking group to be gained in this fashion though differing from that to be derived from a sociological study, need not be any the less authentic or assiduous, In particular the ability to examfne the group from both subjective and objective points of view may enhance illumination. As such, in order to comprehend fully what the poetry reveals about the white English-speaking South Africans, it is necessary to investigate how it does so, and so this dissertation will adopt a primarily literary critical approach to the poetic texts under consideration This dissertation will isolate and examine four of the most important and characteristic dilemmas confronting contemporary white English-speaking South Africans. After an introductory chapter, the second chapter will focus upon the "crisis of identity" experienced by modern-day English-speakers, and will discuss the disturbingly incohesive and vague nature of the English-speaking group, as well as what has been seen as its uncertain and precarious position within the 'wider South African social context. The third chapter will concentrate upon English-speakers "damaged sense of place their feelings of alienation both from the land of their birth and from the European source of much of their cultural heritage, their sense of having no true home. The fourth chapter will be concerned with the feelings of profound dread which seem to have permeated the white English-speaking South African consciousness, both the fearful anticipation of violent political upheaval, as well as a less explicit anxiety about some undefined menace or force which threatens to breach the white South African "laager". Finally, the fifth chapter will examine the attitudes, conduct and political orientation of contemporary white English-speaking South Africans, and will suggest that while a large aggregate of English-speakers may be conservative and apathetic, there exists nonetheless a substantial minority within the group (including most poets) who are enlightened, progressive and activist in outlook and who thus represent a significant "tradition of dissent' in white South African thought.
A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Arts. University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts.
South African literature (English) -- History and criticism., South African poetry (English) -- History and criticism.