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The Use of Orality in the Short Stories of A. C. Jordan, Mtutuzeli Matshoba, Njabulo Ndebele and Bessie Head

Craig MacKenzie
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 28, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 347-358
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/823389
Page Count: 12
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The Use of Orality in the Short Stories of A. C. Jordan, Mtutuzeli Matshoba, Njabulo Ndebele and Bessie Head
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Abstract

The deployment of oral forms in the written work of African writers is a more complex process than would perhaps appear at first sight. Frequently theorised about but seldom achieved, the effective transposition of the oral into the written involves successfully negotiating the ontological gap between oral and written modes. This entails a shift from the spoken to the written word, from live audience to absent reader, from reciprocity and interaction to a process of private interpretation removed (sometimes distantly) in time and place. This article examines attempts by four South African writers to deploy elements of orality in their written stories. It argues that the stories of Jordan and Matshoba are the most conspicuously oral-derived, and yet are the least satisfactory as (written) literary works. Ndebele thematises orality in his stories without, however, allowing this to become an integral part of the narrative style of his work, while Head is the most successful 'oral stylist' of the four in bridging the gap between oral and literary modes.

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