From "sad black stories" to "useful tragedy": Trajectories of hope in Johannesburg from Kgebetli Moele's Room 207 to Perfect Hlongwane's Jozi

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

How do emerging black authors write about hope in contemporary Johannesburg, when the horizons of expectation for the present seem to have collapsed? This question informs this dissertation's engagement with Kgebetli Moele's Room 207 and Perfect Hlongwane's Jozi. The dissertation positions itself within the field of Johannesburg studies. It draws from writing which explores the concept of belonging in Johannesburg and the ways in which this is interposed by racisms and narratives of upward mobility. The dissertation places the novels beside one another in order to examine the availability of new scripts about black subjectivities in post-apartheid Johannesburg. It grapples with some of the narratives being drawn upon by emerging black South African fiction writing on the city, and begins to trace connections between the two novels and other texts which have come to define the literary landscape of this field. The novels allow different approaches to these narratives to surface, while enabling the establishment of a trajectory of conceptions of hope. The dissertation first focuses on Room 207 and argues that the novel exposes the limits of the scripts with which it is engaging, but is unwilling to offer an alternative narrative. It then turns to Jozi to argue that the novel presents a new space for hope in Johannesburg as endurance in the city through the work of care. Reading between the two novels, the dissertation seeks to open a space in research on Johannesburg literature for emphasising the concepts of care, community and endurance as alternative modes of being in the post-apartheid city.