English in Africa

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Reimagining the “literary” in South African literary studies

Duncan Brown


In a review article published in the Journal of Southern African Studies, entitled “Reimagining South African Literature” (2014), I argued that most of the attention to the probing question which Leon de Kock asked in 2005, “Does South African Literature Still Exist?,” has focused more on the qualifier “South African” than the noun “literature.” It remains a powerful question – deceptively simple, but concealing in its formulation several depth charges: questions of literary value; modes of reading; literary historiography; national/transnational identities; translation; readership; institutional location; and so on. In this article, I focus more on the notion of the “literary’ in literary studies in universities in South Africa (and elsewhere). It is to me perhaps the most challenging aspect of de Kock’s interrogative.

Keywords: Literature, the literary, theory, criticism, canonicity
AJOL African Journals Online