• Experience’s Potential and Potential Experiences: Subjectivity, Alterity, and Futurity in the Late-Apartheid Novels of Nadine Gordimer

      Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Société d'Étude des Pays du Commonwealth / Society for the Study of Commonwealth Countries, 2019-06)
      This article begins by scrutinizing divergent critical views of Gordimer’s subject position and authorial agency, which locate her variously on a spectrum ranging from liberal-humanist autonomy to historical-materialist determinism. It then considers how Gordimer’s nonfiction articulates a parallel ambivalence about the reach of the writer’s imagination (and its dependence on “the potential of his own experience”), particularly regarding the ethics and feasibility of creating racially “other” characters. Its main part reads July’s People (1981), in relation to other Gordimer novels, as a similarly self-reflexive engagement with subjectivity and alterity: the otherness of the imagined future (a “potential experience”) facilitates fresh socio-political perspectives, even as the novel expresses philosophical scepticism about such imaginative extrapolation and its textual representation. The article concludes with a new reading of the novel’s “open” ending as a projection of this epistemological conflict.