Immersive and Counter-Immersive Styles of Writing AIDS in Sindiwe Magona’s Beauty’s Gift and Kgebetli Moele’s The Book of the Dead: A Didactic Approach to Writing AIDS

Kulukazi Soldati-Kahimbaara: University of Pretoria



Two distinct responses to the growing body of literature on AIDS, according to Joseph Cady, are immersive and counter-immersive AIDS writing. The former addresses itself to the denial which has dominated worldwide reaction to AIDS, and confronts this denial squarely in an effort to undo it. Central to immersive writing is an attempt to thrust the reader into a direct imaginative confrontation with the special horrors of AIDS, and thus forcing him/her to deal with these horrors with no relief or buffer provided by the writer. In Magona’s Beauty’s Gift, this is evident when Beauty wastes away suddenly, but denies that something is seriously wrong and in fact colludes with her husband (the alleged culprit who infects Beauty with HIV) in an effort to avoid the stigma and shame associated with admitting she is infected with HIV and AIDS by maintaining the denial and silence surrounding the disease. The latter also recognizes the dreadfulness of the disease and indicates the problem of denial in the larger society, but its stance towards the denial seems to be deferential. As is the case with counter-immersive writing, Moele’s novel, The Book of the Dead, focuses on characters who are themselves in various degrees of denial about AIDS, and it treats its readers the way the characters handle their disturbing contact with AIDS, protecting them from a jarring confrontation with the subject by using a variety of distancing devices. What the two novels succeed in revealing is that free availability of knowledge about how people get infected with HIV, how HIV spreads, and how individuals can protect themselves against infection by either condomizing, abstinence, etc., does not always translate into changing sexual behavior, and this applies to people of all races, the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated, and the young and the old alike.


AIDS denialism, silence

Please login first to access subscription form of article

Read Full text in PDF

Browse By

Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)