The objective of this investigation is to look into, and to describe, the development and merit of the Sepedi essay-oeuvre. The works taken into account are the essay collections that were published from 1943 to 1996. At the same time, the various sub-genres of the essay are described. These works are also appraised according to merit, in order to be able to illustrate the evolution of the genre. In order to succeed herein, the researcher has to describe, interpret, classify, and evaluate these works. The descriptive frame of reference used here is the one that has been established by the Department of African Languages, and which is an adapted model of the narratological. Here, three levels are distinguished, namely: (a) the narrative material where the subject is the primary concept; (b) the strategy of composition where the theme concept is especially relevant; and (c) the stylistic finishing of the work in which the author implants his own view of the matters therein. Before the investigation could be tackled formally, the road had to be traversed on what had been done previously on the essay in Sepedi. The articles of Groenewald and Mojalefa respectively, as well as the dissertation of Mohlala, covered only a scanty area of the total field of investigation. The essay concept is then defined. This necessarily led to a description of the genesis of this genre. Here short reference is made to the early French art of the essay. At this point the essay in English is also mentioned, primarily because of the connection to the essayist in Sepedi. The distinction between the formal and the informal essay is briefly discussed, after which we focus our research primarily on the latter. Because the essay, akin to the short story and the sketch, forms part of the art of the pithy, the difference between these three narrative forms is comprehensively elucidated. The various essays are then considered. The narrative material is summarised. The composition of material is discussed under the following headings: (a) The title; (b) the introduction; (c) the elaboration of the data; and (d) the recapitulation. According to these, three distinct categories of essay are differentiated, namely (a) the pioneering phase, (b) the experimental phase and (c) the phase of maturity. The essays of Matlala are classified in the first phase; in the second phase the labours of Masemola, Mojapelo, Tlooke and Mangokwane, then the essays of Mahapa, Mabitje, Selwalekwanadi, Makopo, Phala and Chupyane are grouped in the third phase. In the final, recapitulative chapter, the particular merits of (a) Matlala and Chupyane and (b) Mahapa and Mabitje are investigated. In the former, the versatility of Matlala and Chupyane is discussed, especially with respect to the wide range of types of essay that they wrote. Mahapa and Mabitje are then considered as essay innovators: first for the use of metaphor in the composition of the tale and, secondly, because the essays of both are presented in sequences, a fresh practice that enriches the traditional craft of the essay.
Thesis (DLitt (African Languages))--University of Pretoria, 2008.
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