Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
English & Film Studies
Faculty of Arts
Dr. Mariam Pirbhai
Dr. Maria DiCenzo
Dr. Lynn Shakinovsky
This dissertation analyzes Anglophone South African dramatic critiques of national crises in the post-apartheid moment. Focusing specifically on the years after Nelson Mandela’s retirement, it examines some of the country’s prominent plays produced between 2001 and 2014. This was an important period of social and political change in South Africa, described by drama theorist Marcia Blumberg as a second interregnum where acts of reconciliation or disaffection were staged frequently (“Reconciling” 140). I build on Blumberg’s temporal model by extending her framework to account for recent events of national significance leading up to, and including, Mandela’s death in 2013. In addition to expanding her temporal framework, this project contributes new research on second interregnum drama by examining the rise of humour as a key component of the social and political criticism occurring in works from this period.
My project is divided into four research chapters that highlight major challenges curtailing reconciliation and nation-building during this time: continuing class inequality, silence around mothers’ experiences of trauma during apartheid, ethnic minorities’ feelings of exclusion from national narratives, and continuing cycles of physical and psychological violence. Drama is an important barometer of the state of the nation. During apartheid, it was often used to oppose the state by staging “sites of conflict between different discourses” (Orkin 5). In the second interregnum drama continued to play a significant role in critiquing conditions by highlighting unaddressed areas of class, gender, and racial inequality. Playwrights in this period used drama to engage contemporary audiences in South Africa, and abroad, in order to encourage social change through debate and dialogue.
This project analyzes the appearance of humour in second interregnum drama and the way it foregrounded unresolved tensions in the nation, especially discrepancies between personal and national narratives, and provided alternative ways of dealing with them. Moments of laughter emerge throughout the plays in this dissertation to challenge state discourses, critique social conditions, but also encourage expressions of unity through instances of collective laughter. Mapping key intersections between postcolonial studies and humour, this project provides new analysis of Pieter-Dirk Uys’s MacBeki: A Farce to be Reckoned With, Greig Coetzee’s Happy Natives, Fatima Dike’s The Return, Lara Foot Newton’s Reach, Ashwin Singh’s To House, Ntokozo Madlala and Mandisa Haarhoff’s Crush-hopper, Zakes Mda’s The Bells of Amersfoort, and David Peimer and Martina Griller’s Armed Response.
Rose, J. Coplen, "National Crises and Moments of Laughter in ‘Second Interregnum’ South African Drama, 2001-2014" (2016). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1806.