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Makamane, Ret’sepile (2023) Aesthetics of Sesotho Literature: The fiction of Thomas Mofolo, and the novelists who came after him. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines how indigenous literary aesthetics have been utilised in the Sesotho novel in the first century of literary writing in Lesotho. Through comparative analysis of the novels of Mofolo (1907, 1910, 1926) and Basotho novelists who wrote after him, the study presents interface between local aesthetics and forms on the one hand, and the novel on the other, with a focus on the intertextuality between the novel and Sesotho orature. The main objective is to analyse how Basotho writers have integrated oral literature and the novel for a unique literary expression, and how this by extension needs to inform literary criticism of the novel in Sesotho. The first chapter, ‘Introduction’, gives the context and historical background of Sesotho literature and how Sesotho language usage provides possibilities for creativity and continuity (with local traditions) in Sesotho literature. The chapter presents the objectives of the project, theoretical framework, approach, and content of the thesis. It lays out a road-map for the undertaking of stylistic, technical, metaphysical and solidarity in resistance in African literature. This approach analyses techniques and styles that are immanent in the literature and its language, and by so doing facilitates critique of the novel that is localised and decolonial, in particular consideration to the predominant debates in African literature criticism. The second chapter, ‘Literature Review’, looks at the relative absence of aesthetics in literary criticism of Sesotho and African novel and suggests new methods that take into account the instrumental role oral literature and indigenous aesthetics play in the novel in Sesotho. Mofolo, as I argue, decolonises the novel as a form by giving it a unique Sesotho Africanness strongly anchored in his language and culture. More importantly, his novels demonstrate that African literature criticism needs to go beyond the postcolonial and sociological debates which privilege politics over aesthetics, and combine both. Chapter three ‘Stylistics and Techniques of Sesotho Literature’, undertakes a comparative analysis of Mofolo’s Moeti oa Bochabela/Traveller to the East (1907), and Chobokoane’s Ke Lesheleshele Leo a Iphehletseng Lona/Chickens Come Home to Roost (1992) to view how the novelists integrate the aesthetics of indigenous Sesotho orature into their writing. Focusing on stylistics, such as repetition, poetic inserts, symbolism, ideophones and the patterning of imagery, I present ways in which the Sesotho novel expresses continuity between the past and present in the literary expression, over about a century. Chapter four, ‘Metaphysics and Cosmology in Sesotho Literature’, examines African philosophy, metaphysics and cosmology in the Sesotho novel and analyses syncretism between African spirituality and Christianity in the novels. The chapter examines Mofolo’s Pitseng/A Search for true love (1907), Chaka (1926) and Majara’s Liate oa Mafik’a Lisiu/Liate of Mafik’a Lisiu (1976), comparatively, to demonstrate how the search for the understanding of being and existence, and restoration, is expressed by the texts in their narrative expression of an African metaphysics. The final chapter five, ‘Mofolo’s Poetics of Relation: Textual Decolonial Routes - From Lesotho into Africa with Chaka’, analyses how aesthetics of liberation translate themselves into other African contexts. It examines Mofolo’s role and his influence on other African writers through his use of orature. Through analysis of Lesotho’s Khaketla’s Mosali’a Nkhola/A woman betrayed me (1960), L.opold S.dar Senghor’s “Shaka” (1958) and Wole Soyinka ’s Ogun Abibima. (1976), adaptations of Mofolo’s Chaka, the chapter presents resistance and creation of local and global African networks of solidarity and political activism. This thesis takes an aesthetic decolonial approach to the Sesotho novel, which considers the literature from within the language and culture in which it was produced, and extends its analysis to other African literary geographies. The approach provides deeper attentiveness to techniques of Sesotho and African literature which are crucial for an Africacentred analysis, and for demonstrating continuity in Sesotho literary expression.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Wen-Chin Ouyang
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2023 13:10

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