Theatre, Drama, and Performance in Post-apartheid South Africa
Negotiating the Post-apartheid Condition: Violence, Trauma and the Realist Aesthetic in Contemporary South African Drama
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Violence, Trauma and the Realist Aesthetic in Contemporary South African Drama
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
The systemic violence that affected South Africa during the apartheid regime has left a polymorphous traumatic legacy that resurges in the contemporary “Rainbow” state. Despite the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, post-apartheid South Africa is still negotiating the unpalatable side-effects of its traumatic past. The many forms of violence plaguing today’s South Africa could be construed as belated manifestations of a trauma that keeps haunting the country.1 As Cathy Caruth points out in Unclaimed Experience, following in the footsteps of Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the ‘traumatic neurosis’ “[…] emerges as the unwitting reenactment of an event that one cannot simply leave behind” (Caruth Unclaimed Experience 2). According to Freud, Caruth continues, the impact of traumatic events can only be measured belatedly (Caruth Unclaimed Experience 4). In Trauma and Experience, Caruth further elaborates: “[…] the impact of the traumatic event lies precisely in its belatedness, in its refusal to be simply located, in its insistent appearance outside the boundaries of any single place or time” (Caruth Trauma: Explorations in Memory 9). Caruth further suggests that the significance of the story encoded in memories of traumatic events is best understood in “[…] a language that is always somehow literary, a language that defies, even as it claims our understanding” (Caruth Unclaimed Experience 5). Caruth implies, then, that literary discourse can...
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