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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
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 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 by characters to overcome them through literary psychotherapy. This is better examined through a psychological reading of the texts under study, by looking beyond the historical, social, political, cultural dimensions and exploring the conscious and most importantly, the unconscious state of the mind. most-apartheid literature consists of works of prose, poetry and drama written by South African authors both black and white beginning from the 1990, into the opening decades of the 21st century. Literary works written after the repeal of the South African apartheid system are thus categorized as post-apartheid literature (Ibinga, 2007). The post-apartheid period is further divided into pre-post-apartheid, the early post-apartheid, and, the post-apartheid era (Ibid).The period from 1990-1996 in literary reckoning is delineated as the pre-post-apartheid era. It is immediately followed by an official declaration on 2nd February 1990 which brought an end to the apartheid regime. According to Homann (Ibid), „this period is identified by the imminent arrival of democracy and the time of rigorous political negotiations. The trend that immediately followed the pre-post-apartheid era is the early-post-apartheid period 1996-2002. This period in South African history is critical because it was a time the South African government took a practical step towards reconciliation. Hence, it witnessed the creation of a commission known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). According to Homann, “This period is dominated by the discourse inculcated by the TRC and can aptly be described as the „early-post-apartheid period‟. In this period, playwrights began to intensify their projection of the essence of reconstruction of the new South Africa. The third era is the post-apartheid period, this era marked the third shifting trend ten years after the apartheid rule. According to Homann (2007:18), between 2002 and 2008 there has been a rich diverse mix of new plays. “The floodgate had been opened and what emerged were new playwrights and new works that detailed personal stories rather than exclusively social and political conditions”. The selected plays for this research are among the major plays that emerged from this new wave of post-apartheid theatre. Appraising the above plays and their contemporaries, Homann (2009:18), submits that: “The plays that follow speak to where South Africa is at this stage”. Where South African is at the stage, implied here, is the stage where and when reconciliation and healing from the trauma of the experience of apartheid is expedient. According to Homann (2009:17), Newton and Higginson have constructed characters who struggle to come to terms with the various ordeals of their past memories which are portrayed from different social, ideological, moral, cultural, or political positions. This is the central preoccupation of virtually all post-apartheid South African plays. The central problematic motivating this research is linked to contemporary South African debate of “shaping the future and dealing with the trauma of the past at the same time” (Homann 2009:18). This assertion suggests that every attempt to find a way forward as far as the South African situation is concern must take into cognizance events of the past that have shaped or informed the South African experiences. In affirmation of this position, the one-time Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, indicates that South Africans “must embark upon the journey from the past, through the transition and into a new future” (South Africa, “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission” 6). Thus, traumatic memories repressed in the unconscious inevitably influence, determine and inform personal, social and political life and social intercourse. Understanding the past is itself a process of constructing and describing identity, “because who we are is fundamentally linked to memory” (Mda, Introduction viii). Psychoanalysis as Peter Barry (1995: 105) points out associates a literary works overt content the former and covert content with the later, privileging the later as being what the work is really about, and aiming to disentangle the two. To this end, this dissertation examines Lara Foot Newton‟s Reach and Craig Higginson‟s Dream of the Dog through psychoanalytic lens in order to investigate how the issues of memory, trauma and therapy are captured in post-apartheid plays as a product of past experiences. The fundamental objective of this literary analysis is to argue or establish that the ultimate aim of psychoanalysis as credibly portrayed by the two adopted texts, is to achieve healing and reconciliation between White minorities and Black majority of South African.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Critical works on South African plays have explored the post-apartheid South African experience from such perspectives as the Postcolonial, New Historicist and Feminist angles of literary criticisms. These approaches to post-apartheid South African writings have explored the works from political, social, ideological and historical dimensions. However, post-apartheid plays deploy memory, trauma and therapy to project the complexity of the problem created by the apartheid regime. This aspect has not been adequately explored by the critics. It is on the basis of this missing link that this study investigates the power of interiorities (unconscious traumatic memories) over a human psyche and the limitations it creates as far as reconciling the realities of the present and the past are concerned. In other words, it investigates how characters the selected South African post-apartheid plays manifest their interiorities. Hence, this research examines how traumatic memories of terrible incidents of the past repressed in the unconscious minds of the major characters in the plays define and motivate their actions, and how this ultimately impact on their mental and physical health. This attempt relies on the basic Freudian Psychoanalytic philosophy, that the present and the future are only an effect of the past. Freud believes that hysteria phobia, depression and drug addiction are not caused by organic symptoms but by emotional disturbances that originate from the unconscious. Consequently, this study is predicated on the assumptions that:
- Drama is a significant genre of Literature for espousing the South Africa post-apartheid experience.
- Post-apartheid plays pay attention to memory, trauma and therapy to project the complexity of the problem created by the apartheid regime.
- The hinged objective of literary psychoanalysis in exploring memory and trauma in the selected texts is to achieve reconciliation and healing.
- Freudian Psychoanalytic criticism is a viable tool for analyzing memory, trauma and therapy in post-apartheid plays.
1.3 Aim and the Objectives
The main aim of this study is to examine the portrayal of memory, trauma and therapy in post-apartheid plays by deploying psychoanalytic criticism in order to establish a relationship between interiorities (memory, trauma and therapy) and actions. Moreover, the work aims at investigating the extent to which memory, trauma and therapy influence the inner workings of characters in post-apartheid South African plays, in order to show that South African plays have deeper meaning that can best be explored using psychoanalysis. This is significant because memory, trauma and therapy are realities of life and they are exemplified in how characters act in plays and their understanding will facilitate the interpretations of what actions could mean in literature.