Dance of Life
The Novels of Zakes Mda in Post-apartheid South Africa
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Ohio University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece
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Table of Contents
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I am grateful to my readers for their searching commentaries. David Attwell insisted that I address the plagiarism issue between Mda’s The Heart of Redness and Peires’ The Dead Will Arise; tackling this project made me understand what Derek Attridge calls ‘singularity’ in relation to both works. Johan Jacobs’ suggestions helped me reconfigure the introductory chapter and led to my consulting dozens of critical readings on Mda’s texts that complicate...
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Zakes Mda was born Zanemvula Kizito Gatyeni in 1948 in the Eastern Cape. He spent his childhood in Soweto, and then moved to Lesotho to join his father in exile. One of South Africa’s foremost writers, he has produced plays, novels, poems, and academic articles in addition to being a musician and graphic artist. Mda is now Professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University, but he continues to make frequent trips to his native South Africa to launch...
Chapter One: Zakes Mda’s Construction of The ‘Cross-Border’ Reader
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This chapter concentrates on the readership that Mda creates for his fiction, and considers particularly Mda’s construction of the ‘cross-border’ reader. What does the term ‘cross-border’ mean? Does it refer primarily to the characteristics of an author’s works or to the cultural positioning of the works’ readers? Are we to understand the concept geographically, psychologically or generically? Borders define the boundaries of real spaces as politically...
Chapter Two: ‘Appropriating Urban Space'
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This book explores Zakes Mda’s novels in relation to the ‘new’ (post-apartheid) South Africa. It picks up on the dynamics of performance1 in particular, which Mda carries over into novel-writing from his experience of acting, directing and writing for the Maratholi Travelling Theatre in Lesotho during the 1980s and 1990s when he worked in Theatre for Democracy.2 The dynamics of performance thus transfer from the context of theatre to the context of writing...
Chapter Three: From ‘The Speaking Voice’ to Intertextuality in The Heart of Redness
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From Bakhtin’s notion of ‘the speaking voice’ in Chapter Two, we move here
to the ways in which many voices dialogue to create intertextuality. Tobias
[A]ll literature partly continues and partly contests previous writing: continues because the very forms of language are inherited and taken over, contests because these forms are now used in a different context to establish different meanings … texts...
Chapter Four: Towards a New Ontology of Postcolonial Vision: The Madonna of Excelsior
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This chapter moves from a consideration of intertextuality in The Heart
of Redness to Mda’s use of the visual and perceptual in The Madonna of
Excelsior. Chapter Five extends this emphasis on the visual by considering the
relationship between art works and landscapes in three of Mda’s novels.
Mda’s third novel, The Madonna of Excelsior, is centrally concerned with ‘examining the lives and experiences of ordinary people’ as they move between...
Chapter Five: Art, Landscape and Identity in She Plays with the Darkness, The Madonna of Excelsior and Cion
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This chapter continues to investigate the imbrication of Mda’s texts with the visual arts. In Chapter Four I traced the relationship between the storyworlds of The Madonna of Excelsior and the story-worlds depicted in Frans Claerhout’s paintings, arguing that Claerhout and Mda’s refusal of hegemonic ways of seeing induct the postcolonial reader into new understandings of class, race and gender issues. In this chapter, I extend the examination of visual...
Chapter Six: Imaginary Homelands: Diaspora and identity in Cion
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In this chapter, I consider several postcolonial theorists’ use of the term ‘diaspora’ to interrogate its usefulness for Mda’s novel. Discussions of ‘diaspora’ by Tobias Döring, Ania Loomba, Stuart Hall and Bill Ashcroft are considered and are interwoven with my own analysis of Cion....
Chapter Seven: ‘Our Only Physical and Psychic Home’: Ecology and community in The Whale Caller
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In this chapter I filter Mda’s fictional preoccupations in The Whale Caller through the arguments of other writers who explore ecological issues, because I believe that in this novel Mda has designed a powerful ecological allegory.2 My theoretical frameworks are recent ecological debates both in South Africa and in America, since Mda as writer and academic is linked to both traditions. American universities — and Mda is Professor of Creative Writing at...
Chapter Eight: ‘The Trenches are The Boardrooms of South Africa’: Black Diamond
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To understand Mda’s depiction of black economic empowerment (BEE) in Black Diamond we need look no further than the novel’s chapter headings. These jaunty titles throw the reader into a parodic potpourri derived from numerous sources like the liberation movement during apartheid (‘Free the Visagie brothers’, ‘Comrades and lovers’, ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ ‘Cadres in the trenches’). These escalate into the unashamed capitalism of...
Chapter Nine: Some concluding thoughts
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I have learned a great deal from working on Mda’s novels and from the theorists whose ideas have enabled mine. But my explorations are beginnings rather than conclusions. I hope readers will build on these beginnings, in the performative spirit that animates this book. For Dance of Life is all about the performative in Mda’s fiction writing — in relation to author, characters and readers....
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Publication Year: 2012