Healing Imagination/O Schreine

Joyce A. Berkman, Author University of Massachusetts Press $40 (336p) ISBN 978-0-87023-676-1
The importance of Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) in the South African and British cultural and social history of her day has been overlooked; a full review of her thought is overdue. Author of the first South African novel ( The Story of an African Farm ), this iconoclast was also a pioneer politically and socially, advocating sexual freedom, pacifism, socialism and feminism, among other causes. Berkman's intellectual biography seeks to establish Schreiner's essential significance, but the effort is only partially successful. Although the range of research is broad, the subject's vibrancy is smothered in a cumbersome, ornate prose style better suited to the Victorian period than to one who rebelled from it. The author's decision to employ a thematic rather than a narrative structure (modern enough in its categories, such as ``the androgynous vision'') illuminates Schreiner's ideas but leaves Schreiner herself something of an enigma. Both the richness of personality and the South African context are, in consequence, subordinated--and, with them, the focus of a remarkable story. Berkman is professor of history at the University of Massachusetts. Illustrations not seen by PW . (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1989
Release date: 08/01/1989
Open Ebook - 325 pages - 978-0-585-20082-8
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