THE PORTRAYAL OF MEMORY, TRAUMA AND THERAPY IN POST-APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICAN PLAYS: A STUDY OF LARA FOOT NEWTON’S REACH! AND CRAIG HIGGINSON’S DREAM OF THE DOG

THE PORTRAYAL OF MEMORY, TRAUMA AND THERAPY IN POST-APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICAN PLAYS: A STUDY OF LARA FOOT NEWTON’S REACH! AND CRAIG HIGGINSON’S DREAM OF THE DOG

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ABSTRACT

Using Lara Foot Newton’s Reach! and Craig Higginson’s Dream of the Dog, this study explores the manner in which this selected South African playwrights deploy the themes of memory, trauma and therapy in their works as a means of recounting the horrific experiences of the apartheid regime, and the effects of these experiences on personal, social and political life and relationships in post-apartheid South Africa. Since Literary themes are sometimes burdened with open ended meanings and motifs. They are therefore always open to interpretations guided by concepts and theories of literature. The study proceeds on the assumption that the selected plays like other Post-apartheid South African plays embody sensitive issues that relate to memory, trauma and therapy. This is achieved through the use of Freudian psychoanalytic perspective which facilitate an affinity between the influence of memory and trauma on an individual’s social behaviour and literary creativity. It also investigates how interiorities motivate actions in characters in the selected South African post-apartheid plays. The study argues that playwrights occupy a central position in not only locating the South African experience within literary discourse but their plays illustrate the therapeutic approach to the study of South African experiences. The study, therefore, finds that psychoanalysis offers a unique perspective to the study of characters in South African plays. It also finds that memory, trauma and therapy influence the inner working of characters in some post-apartheid South African plays. The study thus concludes that psychoanalytic criticism is relevant in delineating how interiorities motivate actions in post-apartheid South African plays.

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

This study explores the manner in which the selected South African playwrights

deploy the themes of memory, trauma and therapy in their works as a means of

recounting the traumatic experiences of the apartheid regime, and the effects of these

experiences on personal, social and political life and relationships in post-apartheid South

Africa. It is germane to note that the keyword that essentially defines apartheid is

segregation, segregation of blacks by white folks and foes. Apartheid was a system of

racial discrimination. According to Mhlauli, End Salani and Rosinah Mokotedi, (2015:

205) “Apartheid is an almost universally recognized word, defined as “segregation on

grounds of race. Not only was apartheid a system of racial discrimination, moreover, it

was also imposed separation or segregation of blacks and whites in the areas of

government, labour market and residency. It was, thus, pervasive in that it was deeply

embedded within the economic, social and political structure of the whole country”. The

apartheid rule which in terms of comparison with colonialism is the most despicable and

inhuman role that nature abhors, used every means, instruments and structures of the

society to implement the inordinate segregation of black majority by white minority.

Accordingly, the resultant consequences of this infamous system is such experience it

gave birth to: an experience of intolerant, violence, racial prejudice and war-like

relationships between the blacks and the whites. Therefore, for the blacks, life was nasty,

brutish and short. For black South Africans as well as white South Africans who survived

x


this era, traumatic memories of this violent and despicable experience is the latent cause

of their actions and it defines their relationships.

Consequently, using Lara Foot Newton‟s Reach! and Craig Higginson‟s Dream of

the Dog, the study investigates the playwright‟s preoccupation with the adverse impact of

memory and trauma in Post-apartheid South Africa. A critical look into South African

Literary works reveals that there is a large corpus of critical works aimed at portraying

the post-apartheid South Africa experiences. For example, researchers like Mekusi,

Busuyi (2009), Catherine Powell (2010), Clare Stopford (2013), Ibinga Stephane (2007)

have discussed the Post-apartheid South Africa experiences principally from social,

political, cultural and historical perspectives. Greg Homann (2009:26) is also of the view

that the selected plays in this research show “a new confidence in writing plays in which

the choice of form supports the plot and thematic concerns of the writers. Thus, he

observes that Foot Newton and Higginson use a realist mode of representation to tell their

stories”.

Despite the contributions of these attempts, however, they have not given adequate

attention to the psychological dimension of post-apartheid experiences that the selected

plays embody. This study therefore, expands existing approaches by deploying

psychoanalytical approach to the evaluation of Lara Foot Newton‟s Reach and Craig

Higginson‟s Dream of the Dog, as examples of Post-apartheid South African plays. This

research pays attention to the playwrights‟ depiction of interiorities, which entail the

interplay of conscious and unconscious traumatic memories and the conscious attempts


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