I plan to write a novel based on the life and works of Thomas Pringle, popularly known as the Father of South African poetry. Pringle’s writing has been subjected to various revisionist perspectives that interrogate his liberalism as well as the ways in which he negotiates British modes of representation in the South African context. I am in turn interested in Pringle’s own revisionist project, the shift in his views on subjugated peoples, and what Matthew Shum calls his ‘disparate doubling’ or the ‘paradox of his humanitarian colonial politics’ which led to his revision of the Narrative of a Residence in South Africa and the reworking of his experiences in African Sketches. I also examine Pringle’s role in the publication of The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave.
My novel engages with the conservatism of Pringle’s early years in Scotland; the influence of Scottish Enlightenment; and his fraught relationship with the Edinburgh literary establishment. I have completed the historical, geographical and literary research on Pringle – including his erasure of the violent frontier history of the Eastern Cape. My preliminary writing departs from the historical novel form, encompassing as it does the animation of marginal, indigenous figures from Pringle’s poems. During the residency at STIAS I hope to complete a draft of the fictional work.