Schreiner vs. Joubert: hul vernuwende rol in die Suid-Afrikaanse literatuursisteem
Van Coller, H.P.
Van Coller, H.P.
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This article is an illustration of the reciprocity between literature and society and their mutual interdependence. The underlying hypothesis is that literary texts are not a random selection but form part of a system. This (literary) system is a hypothesised construct, and owing to the internal relations there should be a hierarchical structure - which infers a competition as far as positions are concerned - and the system (although not necessarily hermetically closed) has a boundary. Critics stress the fact that a system should be described as interdependent rather than merely interconnected or interwoven and that the interdependence of entities within the system is the basic focus of systems theory. Cultural (or literary) systems are open systems because they cannot function in isolation and are dependent on their economic, political, etc. environment for their continuing existence and survival. A cultural field is for Bourdieu a representative social space of cultural activity where different hierarchically arranged institutions, rules, rituals, conventions, categories, etc. produce (and legitimize) discourses and activities. In his terminology a cultural field is a network of relations between groups and individuals that are in constant flux and in contestation for what he terms "capital" and the distribution thereof. The extent of power that belongs to any said individual is determined by his or her position within the field and the capital that he or she owns. According to Bourdieu the field of power is divided between competing groups and polarised between the holders of economic and political power, who are dominant over all, and the holders of "cultural capital", who are structurally subordinate, but with the (symbolic) power to legitimize or discredit the dominant group. In this article it is illustrated that the two exemplary texts, A story of an African Farm, 1883 (by Olive Schreiner) and Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, 1978 (by Elsa Joubert) indeed deeply influenced the political field in South Africa. Both novels are seminal texts in the canon of South African literature and both focus on the plight of women. Where Schreiner's text is mainly concerned with male domination, Joubert's text also focusses on racial domination. And both novels make a strong case for a feministic consciousness. In this article society is seen as the starting point, that which is represented by both authors, that which influences the reception of both novels and that which in the final analysis is deeply influenced by the novels. This inter-connectedness of texts, authors, publishers and reviewers is a central thesis of all systems-related theories: Even-Zohar (1990:43-44) defines a producer as groups or social communities engaged in the production of "products" which can be "an utterance, a text, an artefact, an edifice, an 'image' or an 'event'". The production of these "cultural items" is closely linked to what he calls reportorium, "the aggregate of rules and materials which govern both the making and handling or production and consumption of any given product" (p. 39), the "shared knowledge necessary for producing (and understanding) a 'text'" (p.40). This article focusses on the reception of the two novels by gate keepers in the Literary Field within the specific periods. The conclusion is that both novels can be seen as watershed-novels due to the fact that they transgressed the horizon of expectation (Jauss), that they were norm-breaking novels that brought about fundamental literary innovation and enjoyed a great deal of recognition, not only by literary critics but by society at large. In conclusion, a comparative approach reveals that literary transgression of norms not only fundamentally changes and enhances literary systems, but also society at large. OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie artikel is om die wedersydse werking tussen literatuur en die samelewing te illustreer aan die hand van twee konkrete literêre voorbeelde. Daar word in hierdie verband gekyk na die invloed van die maatskappy op dit waaroor hierdie gekose skrywers op ’n gegewe moment skryf en die invloed van die sosiopolitieke omstandighede op die beoordeling van sodanige tekste. Binne die literêr-sistemiese benadering wat hier gevolg word, met die aanname dat die literêre teks slegs een (hoewel belangrike) aspek is van ’n literêre sisteem, word ook gekyk of die tekste en die ontvangs daarvan weer ’n uitwerking het op die maatskappy/sosiale of sosiopolitieke omgewing waaroor daar geskryf is. Die werk van twee alombekende Suid-Afrikaanse vroueskrywers, Olive Schreiner (1855–1920) en Elsa Joubert (1922-), spesifiek Schreiner se teks, The Story of an African Farm (1883), en Joubert se baanbrekende roman, Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (1978), word gebruik om hierdie resepsie-ondersoek1 te loods. Daarom is die fokus ook op die ontvangs van hierdie tekste deur hekwagters2 in die literêre veld3 tydens die onderskeie resepsie-periodes.4 Daar word tot die slotsom gekom dat beide skrywers onderskeidelik met elk van hierdie romans literêre verwagtings deurbreek het, literêre vernuwing gebring het, en naas literêre waardering, ook erkenning gekry het van ’n breër (lesers)publiek. Ten slotte word op ŉ vergelykende wyse aangedui hoe hierdie literêre normdeurbreking nie net bygedra het tot vernuwing van die afsonderlike literatuursisteme nie, maar ook die sosiopolitieke sfeer in Suid-Afrika beïnvloed het.
- Faculty of Humanities