Nadine Gordimer's Transitions : Modernism, Realism, Rupture

Rita Barnard

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Abstract :
International audience
This essay considers Gordimer' s Jump and Other Staries in response to recent debates on realism, which have invited a reconsideration of the relationship between realism and modemism. The distinction between these two forms now seems far from settled. Both are concemed with the problem of knowledge: how to discover the meaning of a complex social world, especially in times where the settled social typologies upon which novelistic realism was based are lacking. The essay suggests that this is especially true in polyglot, rapidly transforming societies Iike South Africa. lt also offers a reconsideration of the relationship between realism and allegory: between the empirical and analogical impulses in Gordimer's oeuvre. lt undertakes readings of the stories 'Once Upon a Time' and 'Spoils' as particularly interesting examples ofhow her fiction is constantly negotiating surface description with broader social meanings that can only be expressed if and when these details accrue a symbolic or analogical dimension ( call it "national allegory"). Framing the discussion is a consideration of the shifty term "transition" and, more broadly, the temporalities of Gordimer' s oeuvre: routine and the foreordained on the one hand, and rupture and revolutionary transformation on the other.
Published : 2018-11
Document Type : Journal articles
Affiliation : University of Pennsylvania


Rita Barnard, « Nadine Gordimer's Transitions : Modernism, Realism, Rupture », Cycnos, 2018-11. URL :