Bodies and borders : space and subjectivity in three South African texts

Mulder, F. Adele (2009)

Thesis (MA (English))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis interrogates the relationship between body, subjectivity and space in three antipastoral novels. The texts which I will be discussing, Karel Schoeman’s This Life, Anne Landsman’s The Devil’s Chimney and J.M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country, all foreground the female protagonist’s relationship to a specifically South African landscape in a colonial time-frame. The inter-relatedness between the body, subjectivity and space is explored in order to show that there is a shifting interaction between these registers in the novels. Arising from this interaction, the importance of perspective as a way of being in the world is foregrounded. The approach adopted in this study is based on the assumption that our experience depends upon how we make meaning of the world through our bodies as we encounter people, places and objects. The lived, embodied experience is always a subjective experience. The conceptual framework is derived broadly from psychoanalysis and phenomenology. My primary concern in this study is how marginal subject positions are explored in the space of the South African farm, which, traditionally, is an ideologically fraught locus of Afrikaner patriarchy and oppression. The novels are narrated by distinctive female voices, each speaking differently, but all having the effect of undermining and exposing the hegemony of the patriarchal farm space. In all three novels the question of genre is involved as forming the space of the text itself. The novels speak to the tradition of the plaasroman and the pastoral and, in doing so, open up a conversation with the past.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis word die verhouding tussen die liggaam, subjektiwiteit en ruimte ondersoek in drie romans wat teen die pastorale literêre tradisie spreek. Die betrokke romans is This Life deur Karel Schoeman, The Devil’s Chimney deur Anne Landsman en In the Heart of the Country deur J.M. Coetzee. Die romans speel af in ‘n koloniale tydperk waar die vroulike protagonis se verhouding met die Suid-Afrikaanse landskap op die voorgrond gestel word. Die verwantskap tussen die liggaam, subjektiwiteit en ruimte word ondersoek om die interaksie tussen hierdie drie konsepte ten toon te stel. Wat vanuit hierdie interaksie voortspruit is die ontologiese rol wat perspektief speel as wyse om met die wêreld te verkeer. Hierdie studie benader die romans vanuit die siening dat die mens se ervaring afhang van hoe hy/sy die wêreld verstaan deur die interaksie tussen die liggaam en ander mense, ruimtes en objekte. Die beliggaamde ervaring is dus ‘n subjektiewe ervaring. Die konsepsuele raamwerk van hierdie ondersoek is afgelei van psigoanalise en fenomenologie. Die kern van hierdie studie is om te ondersoek hoe die posisie van die randfiguur in die ruimte van die Suid-Afrikaanse plaas ten toon gestel word. Die plaas is tradisioneel ‘n ideologiese bestrede ruimte van Afrikaner patriargie en onderdrukking. Die romans word verhaal deur drie kenmerkende en verskillende vroulike stemme wat dien om die hegemonie van die patriargale opset op die plase te ondermyn en ontbloot. Die vraagstuk van genre is in al drie romans betrokke aangesien genre die ruimte van die teks self uitmaak. Die romans spreek teen die tradisie van die plaasroman en die pastorale roman en tree sodoende in gesprek met die verlede.

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