“A Man of His Generation”: Portrayals of Masculinity in the Post-Apartheid Novel
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While portrayals of women in post-apartheid literature have attracted a great deal of academic attention, far less consideration has been given to the depiction of men. My project begins from this point of omission by examining a range of novels to consider how constructions of masculinity have been influenced by South Africa’s transition from apartheid rule to democratic governance. Tensions in this new era of constitutionalism between gender equality and older social views are examined, as are the imbrication of these tensions with constructions of race, class, and sexuality. In my analysis, I find that male characters often attempt to embrace the new order but find themselves unable or unwilling to break with patriarchy, misogyny, and homophobia associated with the country’s past. In J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and Achmat Dangor’s Bitter Fruit, the female body is the site for masculinity’s self-construction, and this dynamic is informed not only by sexual conquest but by notions of vulnerability and honour. In the crime fiction of Deon Meyer, the challenging of gender stereotypes functions in the resolution of crime, but new masculinities are reliant on the exploitation of women for their construction. In Kgebetli Moele’s The Book of the Dead and Niq Mhlongo’s Way Back Home, the effects of the government-supported Black Economic Empowerment programme on the rise of a new black bourgeoisie informs ideas of black masculinity. A chapter on K. Sello Duiker’s Thirteen Cents and Eben Venter’s Wolf, Wolf shows how queer masculinities are constructed in post-apartheid society and how differences in race and class among gay men alter expectations of these models. By offering approaches to the study of masculinity in the post-apartheid novel, this project redresses the lack of critical attention in this area while also contributing new ideas of how gender is constructed. Drawing together a range of literary texts and genres, this project finds in constructions of masculinity a range of often ambivalent responses to notions of transition and the new in post-apartheid South African literature.
AuthorsBlanton, Roger Jr
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