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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751

Resumen

VAN COLLER, H.P.  y  HUMAN-NEL, Marian. Schreiner vs Joubert: Their innovating role in the South African literary system. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.1, pp.169-189. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2016/v56n1a11.

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 auhors, 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 artifact, 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 reception1 of the two novels by gate keepers2 in the Literary Field3 within the specific periods4. 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.

Palabras clave : Literature and society; literary system; literary prestige; realism; horizon of expectation; breaking of literary norms; social and socio-political events; Poppie; African Farm.

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