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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


SMIT, Lizelle  e  STANDER, Dame. Gender performance in Alba Bouwer 's Afrikaans translation of the etiquette book Sybille: Sjarmante vriendin (Sybille: Charming friend). Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.1, pp.200-218. ISSN 2224-7912.

In this article we investigate the Afrikaans journalist and children's book author Alba Bouwer 's Afrikaans translation of the anonymously published German etiquette book, Charmante Freundin: Sybille (1959), as Sybille: Sjarmante vriendin (1968). Mention of Bouwer's translation of Sybille has thus far been omitted in Afrikaans literature reference sources, a remarkable oversight given Bouwer 's magisterial canon position in Afrikaans literature and the general thoroughness that characterises sources on her writing. Furthermore, notable lacunae exist of analyses or discussions of the Afrikaans etiquette book genre. To date, Afrikaans texts in this genre have not been examined or analysed and neither has the genre as such been defined in relation to the cultural milieu of its Afrikaans readers. This article seeks to initiate a discussion of not only this unexamined genre, but also this particular neglected text and its significance regarding Bouwer 's oeuvre. International theorists of etiquette books stress the status thereof as a typically female-targeted genre preoccupied with the establishment of normative feminine values, and we thus read Sybille as a script advocating a standard (Western) hegemonic gender performance. We employ Judith Butler's theories of gender performativity and gender performance to analyse Sybille's advice offered to her female readers, arguing that the speaker'sprescribed suggested female ideal concurs with normative hegemonic expectations of women in the sociohistorical context in which it was translated. Similarly, her advice hinges, semantically and in general, on women never performing their gender in an excessive or demonstrative way that she describes as "too" much. We conduct a close reading of the text itself, scanning it for the rhetorical techniques employed, specifically with regard to the narrator's seductive self-presentation and the manner in which she addresses and engages the model reader to generate a process of gendered subject formation. In this section we identify and discuss both Sybille's performed and performative dimensions as well as how these two distinct but interrelated concepts interact in the text and in its desired social outcome. By adopting a descriptive (as opposed to a prescriptive) translation theory lens, we focus on the translated text's position and function in the culture of the target language community in the late 1960s rather than on that of its original 1950s German production context. To this end we employ André Lefevre's concept of rewriting, Itamar Even-Zohar's notion of compatibility and Sandra Bermann's application of Butler's definition ofperformativity with reference to Translation Studies. With the aid of these notions, we interpret Bouwer 's translation as contributing to the inauguration of a boom of etiquette books in Afrikaans since the 1960s. Subsequently, we contextualise this translated text against the background of Afrikaner nationalist gender constructions of the 1960s and 1970s, as expressed by Bouwer and certain influential political figures. Three prescribed gendered social roles for Afrikaner women in the 1960s and 1970s are identified. Afrikaner women were expected to be: (a) mothers and wives, (b) the keepers or custodians of Afrikaner morality (c) and by implication, they were expected to act as guardians against perceived enemies of the nation (identified as Communism and the equality of different races). Our analysis illustrates that most of the Afrikaner nationalist norms and values regarding gender and its associated prescribed expected behaviours we identify were also espoused by the speaker in Sybille and therefore the source text, in terms of its propagated value assumptions and truth claims, translates seamlessly and effectively into the mainstream reading context of the target culture. Lastly, we identify throughout the paper a comparable self-contradiction in Bouwer 's own rhetoric (found in paratextual sources, such as speeches) and in that of the speaker in Sybille: both simultaneously endorse and criticise patriarchal constructions of womanhood. We ascribe this paradoxical construction offemininity to the subtle influence of Second Wave Feminism on discourses concerning gender in South Africa.

Palavras-chave : Alba Bouwer; Sybille; Sjarmante vriendin; etiquette literature; morality literature; Descriptive Translation Theory; gender performance; gender performativity; Afrikaner women's roles in the 1960s and 1970s.

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