Die verband tussen trauma, die sublieme en die heilige in geselekteerde poësietekste van Totius, Sheila Cussons en T.T. Cloete
Aucamp, Maria Petronella Elizabeth
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Thorough research has been done by researchers in the literary field about the representation of trauma in literature for the past two decades. The emergence of a literary approach to trauma, trauma theory, serves as proof hereof. Recent sources on trauma and literature also show that some researchers are of the opinion that trauma in literature should not be studied in isolation. Examples of such sources are certain articles in Woordeloos tot verhaal: Trauma en narratief in Nederlands en Afrikaans (Ester, et al., 2012), a study by Afrikaans and Dutch academics on trauma in Afrikaans and Dutch literature, as well as Through a Glass Darkly: Suffering, the Sacred, and the Sublime in Literature and Theory (Nelson, et al., 2010). Following the arguments of these and other sources, this study,The relationship between trauma, the sublime and the sacred in selected poems of Totius, Sheila Cussons and T.T. Cloete, was born. The study starts by investigating and determining the nature of trauma/suffering as represented in literature. Following this investigation, the validity of the subject of study is debated. The charge against studies where trauma events are made “occasions of negative sublimity or displaced sacralisation” (LaCapra, 2001:23) is taken into account and shown not to be valid in the case of this study. The two main relations between trauma/suffering, the sublime, the sacred and literature become apparent during the refutation of this charge. The first relation has to do with the nature of these concepts: they all “speak to the ineffable” (Nelson, 2010:xv). The obvious connection between this characteristic and literature (an instrument by which the ineffable can indeed be uttered), is clearly visible. The second relation is unique to the Christian worldview, namely the holy conjunction of extreme suffering and extreme beauty; inseparably connected by the sacred redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Jeffrey (2010:7) calls this conjunction of suffering, the sublime and the sacred the “spiritual sublime”. In the theoretical study of the first relation, Caruth’s (1996:3) phrase “the language of literature” is used to show the manner in which these ineffable concepts are represented. This phrase is used right through the rest of the dissertation, and refers to the way in which literature (especially poetry) speaks indirectly – by way of figurative speech (i.e. through metaphor). The abovementioned relations between trauma/suffering, the sublime, the sacred and literature, as well as relations resulting from these two main relations, are then (in different ways) traced in selected poems of three Afrikaans poets – also three trauma victims. Totius, Sheila Cussons and T.T. Cloete experienced different forms of trauma and write in distinctive ways about their trauma/suffering. Not only is the representation of trauma/suffering in their poems distinctive, but also the relationship of their suffering with the sacred (i.e. the expression of their faith and experience of God). Instead of a systematic study of the poems, the researcher is led by the poems themselves to see in what manner the concepts of this study emerge therein, and the poems are then analysed and discussed accordingly. A growing complexity in the representation of trauma/suffering with relation to the sublime and the sacred can be seen in the poems of Totius, Cussons and Cloete. What proves to be consistent, however, is the way in which the “language of poetry” plays a crucial role in the poets’ expression of their pain, and how they find meaning in their suffering through means of the literary work. Together with the latter, it is also in their conviction regarding the sacred and the expression thereof in their poems, that they see meaning and hope in their suffering.
- Humanities