Making Sense in Life and Literature

U of Minnesota Press
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Publisher
U of Minnesota Press
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Pages
376
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ISBN
9781452901138
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Language
English
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What is it the legacy that humankind has been living with since 1945? We were once convinced that time was the agent of change. But in the past decade or two, our experience of time has been transformed. Technology preserves and inundates us with the past, and we perceive our future as a set of converging and threatening inevitabilities: nuclear annihilation, global warming, overpopulation. Overwhelmed by these horizons, we live in an ever broadening present. In identifying the prevailing mood of the post-World War II decade as that of "latency," Gumbrecht returns to the era when this change in the pace and structure of time emerged and shows how it shaped the trajectory of his own postwar generation. Those born after 1945, and especially those born in Germany, would have liked nothing more than to put the catastrophic events and explosions of the past behind them, but that possibility remained foreclosed or just out of reach. World literatures and cultures of the postwar years reveal this to have been a broadly shared predicament: they hint at promises unfulfilled and obsess over dishonesty and bad faith; they transmit the sensation of confinement and the inability to advance. After 1945 belies its theme of entrapment. Gumbrecht has never been limited by narrow disciplinary boundaries, and his latest inquiry is both far-ranging and experimental. It combines autobiography with German history and world-historical analysis, offering insightful reflections on Samuel Beckett and Paul Celan, detailed exegesis of the thought of Martin Heidegger and Jean Paul Sartre, and surprising reflections on cultural phenomena ranging from Edith Piaf to the Kinsey Report. This personal and philosophical take on the last century is of immediate relevance to our identity today.
“The long history of censorship is a parallel and equally powerful history of literature. Censors bear witness to the power of the word even more forcefully than the writers and the readers they consider dangerous.” (Index on Censorship 6/1996)
A critical assessment of literature produced under censorship needs to take into account that the stategies of the censors are answered by strategies of the writers and the readers. To recognize self-censoring strategies in writing, it is necessary to know the specific restrictions of the censorship regime in question. In South Africa under apartheid all writers were confronted with the question of how to respond to the pressure of censorship. This confrontation took a different form however, depending on what group the writer belonged to and what language he/she used. By looking at white writers writing in Afrikaans and white and black writers writing in English, this book gives the impact of censorship on South African literature a comparative examination which it has not received before. The book considers works by J.M.Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, André Brink, and others less known to readers outside South Africa like Karel Schoeman, Louis Krüger, Christopher Hope, Miriam Tlali and Mtutuzeli Matshoba. It treats the censorship laws of the apartheid regime as well as, in the final chapter, the new law of the Mandela government which shows some surprising similarities to its predecessor.
Margreet de Lange teaches Comparative Literature at Utrecht University and coordinates the University’s interdisciplinary program of South African Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
“De Lange expertly sketches in the historical and literary backgrounds as she goes, taking us right up to the recent (unsatisfactory) revision of the censorship laws, making The Muzzled Muse a vitally important summary of literary censorship in South Africa, and a handbook of what to guard against in the future.”
Shaun de Waal, Mail & Guardian Sept. 26 to October 1, 1997
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