Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
VILJOEN, Louise. Poetic dialogues with Van Wyk Louw. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2008, vol.48, n.3, pp. 267-291. ISSN 2224-7912.
The importance of a writer in a literary field can be deduced from a diachronic perspective which is determined by his or her presence in literary histories and from a synchronic perspective which can be deduced by the distribution of a writer's work, its continued presence in academic teaching, research, publications, meetings, the media and general publications as well as its productive existence in interviews, manifestoes, statements about poetics, translations, re-workings, instances of intertextuality and citation. This article explores the status of the poet N.P. van Wyk Louw with reference to the way in which his work is a continued presence in the work of Afrikaans poets through intertextuality and citation. The article makes use of a specific definition of intertextuality, but also adapts Lefevere's concept of re-writing (which normally refers to translation, the editing of texts and the production of anthologies, literary histories, reference works on literature, interpretative studies and literary criticism) to refer to poets' rewriting of the texts by a predecessor like Louw as a form of literary criticism. The reason for this is the somewhat provocative view proposed by Louw himself that a poet carries out a form of literary criticism in producing his own work. In this investigation into rewritings of Louw's work by other Afrikaans poets more than a hundred poems were discovered which conduct intertextual dialogues with poems by Louw. The article identifies and discusses a wide range of rewritings: critical re-writings, citations, parodies, stimuli, homages, evaluations, commentaries and poetic biographies. It is concluded that Louw's poetry elicited reaction from a wide spectrum of poets and that his work is evoked in both high and popular forms of poetry. It seems as if Louw's poetry functions as a yardstick for some of the most important poets in Afrikaans (Breytenbach, Cussons, Stockenström, Krog). These poets measure themselves against his work, they articulate their own views in opposition to the example set by his work and sometimes distance themselves from him to find their own (poetic) identity. It is therefore evident that while the poets who rewrite Louw's work honour him by their response, they also contradict him, differ from him, reproach him and negotiate with him. It is also noted that writers who operate in the domain of popular culture like Koos Kombuis as well as rock-singers like the band Fokofpolisiekar and the singer Jan Blohm rewrite his work. The article finally comes to the conclusion that Louw is still a very strong presence in that part of the Afrikaans literary field represented by poet-rewriters. Although this is not the main aim of the article, a final paragraph speculates about the reasons why Louw is still remembered by poet-rewriters. It is proposed that some of the reasons may be found in the way in which Louw's work is embedded in the canon of Afrikaans literature and the cultural memory of Afrikaans poets as well as in the position of the language Afrikaans and Afrikaans literature within the political, cultural and economical fields of South African society. It is also proposed that the importance of his work as a predecessor for succeeding poets has something to do with the nature of his poetry. The examples discussed in the article point to the fact that it is the poems which feature an indeterminacy of meaning as well as a confronting self-assuredness which invite, even compel, his successors to react by rewriting his work.
Keywords : Literary status; literary field; intertextuality; rewriting.