Original Research

Third World Express : trains and “revolution” in Southern African poetry

L. Wright
Literator | Vol 31, No 1 | a34 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v31i1.34 | © 2010 L. Wright | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 July 2010 | Published: 13 July 2010

About the author(s)

L. Wright, Institute for the Study of English in Africa, Rhodes University, South Africa

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This article examines political dimensions of the train metaphor in selected Southern African poems, some of them in English translation. Exploring work by Mongane Serote, B.W. Vilakazi, Demetrius Segooa, Phedi Tlhobolo, Thami Mseleku, Jeremy Cronin, Alan Lennox-Short, Anthony Farmer, Freedom T.V. Nyamubaya, Abduraghiem Johnstone and Mondli Gwala, the argument shows some of the ways in which the technological character of trains and railways is made to carry a message of political insurrection and revolution. The author shows that the political potential of the railway metaphor builds on the general response to railways evident in poems indebted to traditional African praise poetry. The article also demonstrates that political contention within different strands of the Southern African liberation movement could also find expression using the railway metaphor.


Cognitive Metaphor; Paralogical Metaphor; Political Modernisation; Political Revolution; Praise Poetry; Railways; Social Modernisation; Trains In Literature


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