The remarkable Olive Schreiner

The remarkable Olive Schreiner

Letters, manuscripts and informal kinds of writing as well as publications have been on the work agenda over the last couple of weeks in relation to Olive Schreiner (1855-1920). Being asked to write a book introducing Schreiner’s ideas and writings in a sociology context and prepare a proposal for this has necessitated a re-immersion in all things Schreiner. Not just doing this, but pulling out of it the different trajectories of her thinking and social commentary, has been salutary. Her writing methods were ‘unconventional’ because being what now might be called mixed genre and pre- (rather than post-) disciplinary, and her mode of approach was the antithesis of ‘disciplined‘ in the sense of being narrowly focused. Expansive, infrequent, fragmented, are words that come to mind – except, except that they add up to something really quite extraordinary and which hangs together. There are other words that come to mind too –  grounded, of the moment, prescient, future-oriented, also accurate. All of her work taken together is fascinating, although her letters give a particular edge to it all and are essential reading. They can be accessed at www.OliveSchreiner.org

What Schreiner’s work adds up to is a feminist analytics which troubles rather than valorises what is now called gender because it also encompasses race, class, capitalism, households, labour, imperialism, the state, violence and war. It is in a way a precursor to an intersectional analysis. Or rather it is not a precursor, but an intersectional analysis of its own. Hopefully the book will go ahead, and in which case there will be further blogs on it.

Last updated: 31 Jul 2020


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