Title page for ETD etd-12132006-161907

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Magapa, Ntepele Isaac
Email magisa@polka.co.za
URN etd-12132006-161907
Document Title Kanegelotseka Ya Sepedi
Degree DLitt ( African Languages)
Department African Languages
Advisor Name Title
Prof M J Mojalefa
Prof P S Groenewald
  • interpret
  • detective prose
  • characters
  • events
  • plot
  • techniques
  • mystery
  • classification
  • compare
  • define
Date 2006-09-05
Availability unrestricted
This research aims to investigate the development of the Sepedi detective story, and to classify existing works into appropriate sub-genres. The study will use the methods of comparison, grouping, description and interpretation.

The growth and development of the Sepedi detective story from 1951 to 1998 is discussed and the influence of Ramaila’s short stories from the collection Molomatsebe (1951) on other Sepedi detective stories shown. Various problems are examined, including (a) the scarcity of Sepedi detective stories as compared to the number of stories in European languages, and (b) the classification principles suitable for determining the different sub-genres.

The study uses a narratological approach, which examines texts focusing on three levels, namely content, structure (plot) and style. This study pays particular attention to the first two levels, though the last level, style, is discussed briefly in the closing chapter.

In the investigation the definitions of a detective story formulated by various literary theorists are discussed, and the challenge of classifying detective stories into sub-genres examined. The most important classification systems found in the literature are those formulated by Boileau and Narçejac, Groenewald, and Dresden and Vestdijk. The classification approach used in this study is based on the characteristic features that distinguish a detective story from other genres.

The most important characteristic of the detective story is mystery. The concept of mystery is therefore explained in detail, and various sub-genres classified according to the presence of one (occasionally more) of the following elements: (a) the real character of the detective is a mystery, (b) the name of the criminal is a mystery, (c) the name of the victim is a mystery, (d) the evidence that reveals the mystery at the end, and (e) the investigation that reveals the mystery.

The different narrative techniques that authors can use to keep the mystery concealed so as to arouse the readers’ interest are explored. Methods to build tension and suspense in a narrative are also investigated.

Lately some researchers of Sepedi detective stories have encountered problems in dealing with works that have both mystery and romantic sub-plots. This research study therefore mentions the difference between a detective story and a love story. It is not unusual for a detective story author to bring love affairs into the narrative, because these can be used to relieve tension.

In the closing chapter, short remarks are made about the third layer of the text, namely style. Dresden and Vestdijk’s arguments concerning style are taken as the basis for these remarks. They discuss a curious characteristic of detective plots. This is that, though emotional and disturbing acts such as murder or rape are central to a detective story, the mystery surrounding these acts in the plot of the story turns the story into a puzzle rather like a mathematical problem, which is gradually solved as the plot progresses, with the result that the criminal is not viewed negatively. Whether or not he/she is punished is not a central issue; sometimes the criminal even escapes punishment through committing suicide. Death in this type of story has no meaning. This emotional independence is what forms the basis of the detective author’s style.

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