Transcribing tales, creating cultural identities : an analysis of selected written english texts of Xhosa folktales

Naidu, Samantha (2000) Transcribing tales, creating cultural identities : an analysis of selected written english texts of Xhosa folktales. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




This thesis maps a marriage of postcolonial theory and folklore studies. The progeny of this marriage is an analytic tool which can suitably and effectively tackle the subject of written folktale texts, whether they be part of a nineteenth century colonialist discourse, or a twenty-first century nationalist discourse. First, GM Theal=s collection of folktale texts, Kaffir Folklore (1882), is analysed as part of his specific colonialist discourse. Theal formulated for himself, and for the Xhosa peoples, identities which consolidated the colonialisms he supported. I argue that these folktale texts, although a part of Theal=s colonialist discourse, are hybrid, containing the voices of both coloniser and colonised. Second, the position of contemporary written folktales in a neo-colonialist and >new nationalist discourse=, is examined. The optimistic belief of scholars and authors, that folktales are a means of bridging cultural gaps, is questioned. Finally, it is shown that authors of folktale texts can synthesise diverse literary traditions in a hybrid artform. This synthesis, to some extent, embodies the >new nationalist= aim of a unified national cultural identity in South Africa. The central value of recognising the role of folktale texts in colonialist and nationalist discourses lies in the awareness that this type of literary activity in South Africa is a cross-cultural practice. The confluence of voices which constitutes these folktale texts, reveals that our stories are intertwined. In the past, the discourses of colonialism and apartheid controlled the formation of the diverse and hierarchised cultural identities of South Africa. But this is not to say that alternative stories of self-fashioning and cultural self-determination did not exist. In the folktale texts of writers such as Mhlope, Jordan, and even in Theal=s colonial collection, different mediums, literary heritages and styles converge to create narratives which speak of cross-cultural interaction and the empowerment of the black voice. In post-apartheid South Africa, there is even greater opportunity to reshape stories, to recreate selves, and to redefine intercultural relations. This thesis has outlined how some of those stories, which use folktale texts as their central trope, are constructed and commodified. Not only do these reinvented folktale texts embody the heterogeneous cultural influences of South Africa, they also have the potential to promote, first, the understanding of cultural differences, and second, the acceptance of the notion of cultural hybridity in our society.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Tales, Folkore, South Africa, Xhosa literature
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > English
ID Code:2308
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:01 Dec 2011 12:06
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:22
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