Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marty Gould, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gurleen Grewal, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.


postcolonial literature, African literature, Farm novels, agrarian writing


The farm novels of southern Africa can be considered microcosms of gender stereotypes and racial attitudes. Reading these novels using post-colonial, Marxist, and feminist theory is especially useful in thinking about how these novels reflect female writers’ perspectives about the success of the imperialism in Africa and the lasting effects of colonialism on gender and race relations. In addition, these novels provide interesting insight into colonialism, allowing each author to comment on the effect of imperialism on both the colonized and those who take up the colonial project.

This dissertation examines novels by three female African writers: The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing, and When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head. Written at different stages of colonial power, each novel represents agrarian life in southern African colonies that share similar cultural, historical, colonial, and racial attitudes. These novels can be interpreted as building on, challenging, and “writing back” to the concept of the plaasroman, a genre central to the South African colonial experience.

In addition to discussing how these novels undermine traditional forms of pastoral literature in order to comment explicitly on those forms’ failure to account for the farm experience in southern Africa, this dissertation applies postcolonial, Marxist, and ecofeminist criticism to delve into issues of postcolonial identity, racism, and the role of the farm as both a microcosm and a catalyst for change.