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Making Space for Women’s Sexual Selves in Olive Schreiner’s <i>From Man to Man</i>

Sanja Nivesjö


In this article I argue that Olive Schreiner’s novel From Man to Man or Perhaps Only– (1926) explores the female subject’s relationship to sexuality in late nineteenth-century colonial South Africa in spatial terms. Reading the novel through Sara Ahmed’s (2006) idea of “queer phenomenology” and the concepts of “bodily horizon,” “extension,” and “orientation,” I claim that it is in the interaction of body and space that the potential lies for both oppression and resistance in relation to sexual and racial norms in the novel. The analysis focuses on how the main characters, Rebekah and Bertie, respond to restrictive sociosexual norms through their orientation in space. The article further considers how Rebekah and Bertie attempt to manage their troubled relation to colonial domesticity, and ultimately transform it, through their relationships with the servants Dorcas and Clartje and with Rebekah's adopted daughter Sartje; the former of which are ultimately imbued with notions of sexualised invasion. This article reveals how the spatial and embodied practices of the main characters are essential in negotiating their sexual positions in late nineteenth-century South African society.

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eISSN: 2071-7474
print ISSN: 0376-8902