Episode 15: ‘Travels to the Interior‘ - 18th Century Travel Writing & the Literature of Mzansi

Goodnight Azania

15-09-2021 • 50 mins

Formal history, in talking about South Africa before the 19th century, relies heavily on archaeological forms of evidence to construct its narratives. While this may be justified by the paucity of testimony from autochthonous Africans that points a resolute finger into past epistemic, ontological, cosmologic, political-ethical philosophical positions, it remains inadequate in capturing a more synthesised conception of southern African life.

The 17th- and 18th-century Dutch colony has been characterised by Hamilton et al. as being minimally interested in the extent to which the colony could have been imposed on much longer historiography. Such positions could be defended by the narratives set into motion to justify the dispossession of indigenous African people. However, parallel to this fact lies the fact of the presence of literary productions by Europeans travelling into South Africa and writing about their visits. This episode, then, will be an attempt to review these materials and their producers, to gauge their influences on South African literature, over time.

To help us unpack 18th travel writing on South Africa I am joined by Ian Glenn.

Ian is an Emeritus Professor of Media Studies at the University of Cape Town. He studied at the University of Natal (Durban) where he did a BA in English and Politics and then an Honours in English, at the University of York in the UK where he did a B.Phil and then at the University of Pennsylvania for an MA and PhD. His particular research interests are media in the new South Africa, political communication, audience studies, media technologies and the literature of exploration, and environmental media.

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