In the name of the father Lacanian reading of four white South African writers

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Silvio A. Torres-Saillant


South Africa, White writers, Roy Campbell, J. M. Coetzee, Athol Fugard, Nadine Gordimer, Jacques Lacan, Literature

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


The subject of the father in South African literature is the subject of labor, land, language, and liberation. This dissertation interrogates the disconnectedness in the complex triangulation of the South African family before, during, and after the apartheid regime. When Nadine Gordimer says, for instance, that "For those whose ancestors went out from their own to conquer, or quit their own because of persecution and poverty, ancestry begins with grandfathers who emigrated," she signifies the tragic "male/volence" of the racial struggle to dispossess and repossess the South African geographical, economical, and socio-cultural space. "There is (sic) an Old Country and a New Country," says Gordimer, "the heredity of the one who is conceived there begins with the New Country, the mongrel cross-patterns that have come about." All the four writers, whose selected work are used in this study (Roy Campbell: 1901-1957, Nadine Gordimer: 1923-, Athol Fugard: 1932-, and J. M. Coetzee: 1940-), insist that "there is a particular responsibility on the father" in the South African discourse. The four are chosen because their works traverse the entire historical development of the twentieth century South African politics. They are also among the most globally prominent in their genres of South African writing of the past one hundred years. Moreover, all four have collectively and separately devoted their creative pursuit to the interpolation of the crisis of fatherhood in South Africa. The dissertation is distributed into five chapters, in addition to the introduction. The introduction outlines the purpose of the dissertation, the problem, methodology, and significance of the study, and chapter distribution. Chapter one explores the various emanations and figurations of the father that are central to the subject of this study, including the Lacanian father, the postcolonial bastard, and the father in literature. Chapters two through five respectively extrapolates on the poetry of Roy Campbell, the fiction of Nadine Gordimer and J. M. Coetzee, and the drama of Athol Fugard for a close reading of the image and signification of the father in South African experience. The study explores the use of diction, metaphor, and metonymy in the canonical narrative of the other, as well as the writers' projection of a structured unconscious. The historicization of a prevalent animal imagination would prove revelatory to the development of, particularly, a white South African literary tradition.


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