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Frontiers in Art Research, 2023, 5(6); doi: 10.25236/FAR.2023.050605.

The Politics of Emotion in Damon Galgut’s The Promise


Yin Gao

Corresponding Author:
Yin Gao

School of English Language, Zhejiang Yuexiu University, Shaoxing, 312000, China


The “affective turn” of Western literary criticism arose at the beginning of the 21st century as a result of new discoveries in neuroscience, cognitive science, and other disciplines. As one of the main fields of Affect Studies, discourses of the emotion pry into the emotional dimensions of literary texts to reveal the embodiment, sociality, and politics of emotions. South African writer Damon Galgut constructs a series of affective scenes with both individuality and representativeness in his 2021 Booker Prize-winning novel The Promise and thus turns the fictional world into an affective field. The novelist focuses on the titular event “promise” and takes it as the thread running through four funerals of the white Swart family. Through the lens of Affect Studies, the author attempts to interpret shame, anger and compassion behind the Swarts’ making, breaching, and honouring of the promise and examines how those emotions are dictated by South Africa’s gender, racial and class politics. The author concludes that the compassion-based African Ubuntu philosophy may lead South Africa to the promised land of national reconciliation.


South African literature, The Booker Prize, Affect Studies, Damon Galgut, The Promise

Cite This Paper

Yin Gao. The Politics of Emotion in Damon Galgut’s The Promise. Frontiers in Art Research (2023) Vol. 5, Issue 6: 24-30. https://doi.org/10.25236/FAR.2023.050605.


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