Graduate School
Welkom by Universiteit Stellenbosch

Dr Phenyo Butale

Home country: Botswana

PANGeA Partner: University of Botswana

Year of enrolment: 2010

Graduation date: March 2015

Department: English

Supervisor: Dr Tina Steiner

Co-Supervisor: Prof Annie Gagiano

Dissertation title: Discourses of poverty in literature: Assessing representations of indigence in post-colonial texts from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe

Abstract:  This thesis undertakes a comparative reading of post-colonial literature written in English in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to bring into focus the similarities and differences between fictional representations of poverty in these three countries. The thesis explores the unique way in which literature may contribute to the better understanding of poverty, a field that has hitherto been largely dominated by scholarship that relies on quantitative analysis as opposed to qualitative approaches. The thesis seeks to use examples from selected texts to illustrate that (as many social scientists have argued before) literature provides insights into the 'lived realities' of the poor and that with its vividly imagined specificities it illuminates the broad generalisations about poverty established in other (data-gathering) disciplines. Selected texts from the three countries destabilise the usual categories of gender, race and class which are often utilised in quantitative studies of poverty and by so doing show that experiences of poverty cut across and intersect all of these spheres and the experiences differ from one person to another regardless of which category they may fall within. The three main chapters focus primarily on local indigence as depicted by texts from the three countries. The selection of texts in the chapters follows a thematic approach and texts are discussed by means of selective focus on the ways in which they address the theme of poverty. Using three main theorists – Maria Pia Lara, Njabulo Ndebele and Amartya Sen – the thesis focuses centrally on how writers use varying literary devices and techniques to provide moving depictions of poverty that show rather than tell the reader of the unique experiences that different characters and different communities have of deprivation and shortage of basic needs.

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