This study explores the relationship between literature and society against the background of the emergence in the 1930s and 1940s in South Africa of a form of Afrikaner nationalism that was spearheaded by members of the Afrikaner petty bourgeoisie and intelligentsia and a subsequent expansion in Afrikaans literary production. It addresses problems of explanation in Afrikaner nationalism by focusing attention on the question of culture, the field of imagination and the domain of everyday life. In particular, the study examines the Keurboslaan series - a series of schoolboy stories aimed at juvenile readers - by Stella Blakemore, and traces the production, circulation and critical reception of the twenty titles in the series. The first title in this series was published in 1941 and the series has been reprinted several times over a number of decades and as recently as 1997. Drawing on the work of Benedict Anderson, this study illuminates the link between the emergence of print capitalism and the production of popular fiction on the one hand and nationalism on the other. Whilst this is a link that is not often explored, an analysis of the Keurboslaan series illustrates that the study of popular fiction can illuminate the practices through which nationalism gains popular support. It is argued that the Keurboslaan series produced a narrative of the Afrikaner ‘nation’ in popular fiction, but that this narrative was not authenticated by the intelligentsia and petty bourgeoisie who were the driving forces behind Afrikaner nationalism and its contents. It is further argued that this ‘narrative of nation’ circulated alongside more official narratives of the ‘nation’ espoused in discourses of religion, science and literature published in Afrikaans. The narrative of ‘nation’ in Keurboslaan – whilst sharing many similarities with official narratives in other discourses – but also differs from those discourses in important respects. It is argued that the popular series was influential precisely because it imagined the Afrikaner ‘nation’ in very different ways and on different terms from those discourses. Moreover, the form in which this narrative was produced, that is popular youth literature, appealed to readers of Afrikaans who were in search of escapist fiction. For these readers, the Keurboslaan series helped to give shape to and created new possibilities for interpreting the world that they inhabited. Reading the school as a corollary of the ‘nation’, it is argued that the narrative of the nation in Keurboslaan series explores the boundaries between the self and the other and posits the self as a danger to the self, resulting in an emphasis on the need to discipline the self. This kind of analysis also creates the space for examining in what ways ideas and identities about ‘race’, gender, sexuality, class and ‘nation’ are constructed in the texts. Yet, the study maintains that whilst the Keurboslaan series contributed to creating a space in which a particular understanding of the self and the world becomes possible, and whereas the reader is not conceived of as a completely free agent that can derive simply any meaning from the text, the study and its theoretical underpinnings do not fully account for individual readers’ engagement with popular texts and the ways in which reading strategies and habits can generate different, ambiguous or inconclusive meanings for readers. It is suggested that a study of popular texts and Afrikaner nationalism employing theories of reading and the reader will complement this analysis.
Thesis (DLitt (Literary Theory))--University of Pretoria, 2005.