Paradigms of Heroism: Perspectives on Epigraphs in Nadinc Gordimer
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This article aims to study intertextuality in the novels of Nadine Gordimer, specifically in her use of epigraphs. The location of the epigraph at the beginning of the novels provides the reader with a framework from which to view and judge the text and offer an interesting platform for the exploration of meaning in Gordimer. Epigraphs and titles may be considered a new voice that contributes to the “recentering” of the narrative perspective; it adds powerful meaning to the whole novel. As such, the epigraphs acquire the category of “voices” that claim, describe, point out or argue relevant issues of both literary and political importance. An analysis of the quotations selected demonstrate how these are closely and directly related to the content of the novels themselves and express the mood in which the books are written. This paper will analyze Gordimer’s choice and use of epigraphs as an approach to a more profound understanding of her narrative technique: as a signifying tool for the development of meaning. More specifically, it will attempt to present the use of epigraphs in Gordimer’s novels as the appropriation of new voices that contribute to the “recentering” of cultural context, theme and narrative perspective. On the one hand, most of Gordimer’s epigraphs are quotes from major European writers. This signals a link between the European cultural background and the South African present, as it serves as a discourse of translation of their meanings into new South African ones. These intertexts play a central role in the novels, as they allow for the creation of a specific South African literary identity. On the other hand, Gordimer also incorporates native texts, that may represent the African voice trying to come to terms with the new realities of life in South Africa.