Scratching the skin (rather than…)

Meg Samuelson, a literary theorist from UCT, made an interesting statement at the recent Rhodes University English Department symposium on nostalgia in Southern African literature. At the same time as declaring herself to be a theorist immersed in feminist and psychoanalytic techniques for dissecting literature, she remarked that perhaps it was time to abandon deep excavations of texts for hidden ideological meanings and pay attention to “reading on the surface”.

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Samuelson was dealing with Zoe Wicomb’s book October (a story about an academic living in a sort of exile in Glasgow who returns to Namaqualand, which of course has powerful parallels with Wicomb’s own life) and suggested that in this book Wicomb (the astute theorist of literature as well as award-winning author) was “asking us to read differently to Mercia [the English professor character in the book], differently to our discipline. To read on the surface [as one does a photograph or screen] and ask ‘what is it [the text] laying bare for us?” Continue reading