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The Black Woman: A Woman Apart

Stereotypes and Self-Assertion in South African English literature

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Gabriella Madrassi

This is a comprehensive review of the representation of the black woman in South African English literature from the 1650's to the 1970's. The work is interwoven with a study of two crucial periods in South African history: 1910-1930 and 1950-1980. The first opens with the Act of Union which embodied in the constitution the two-fold white domination of the country and ends with legislation which gradually enforced the ideology of separateness. In the second period the policy of apartheid replaces that of segregation leading to the years of increasingly violent black struggle.
Thus the geopolitical and social perspective defines the peculiar conditions in which black South African women found themselves prior to the end of apartheid. In an era which will forever be associated with the names Sharpeville and Soweto, a few individuals found in writing a means of self-assertion elsewhere denied them. This book finally examines two such writers from the contemporary period whose approaches are diametrically opposed: Bessie Head and Miriam Tlali.