‘The Narcissism of Small Differences’: Plagiarism in South African Letters

  • Kate HighmanEmail author
Part of the New Directions in Book History book series (NDBH)


Highman’s chapter explores how, in South African letters, both instances of plagiarism and allegations of plagiarism have often served to mark cultural difference – even while attesting to an active (if disavowed) practice of cultural translation. Highman shows how transcultural sources are frequently effaced in favour of presenting a distinctly national voice, with plagiarism serving to obscure such sources. The chapter traces a debate between the English-speaking poet Stephen Watson and the Afrikaans poet Antjie Krog over their respective adaptations of the San orature recorded in the colonial Bleek-Lloyd archive, contextualising it within a long history of appropriative white writing about indigenous peoples, and arguing that Freud’s ‘narcissism of minor differences’ is at work in the dispute by these white writers over these indigenous texts.


South African Plagiarism Afrikaans Literature Bushman Folklore Cream Pies 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Humanities ResearchUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa

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