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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

MEYER, Susan. Nature writing as ecosystem: An analysis of Boomkastele: 'n Sprokie vir 'n stadsmens (Schalk Schoombie). Part 1. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.4-2, pp.1200-1212. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2016/v56n4-2a7.

In the first part of the present study, I explore a new concept of viewing nature writing, introduced by David Barnhill in a relatively recent article titled "Surveying the Landscape: A New Approach to Nature Writing" (2010). In the second part of the study, to be published in the March 2017 edition of this journal, Barnhill's theoretical instrument is put to the test in an analysis of Schalk Schoombie's narrative text Boomkastele. Nature writing is a prominent genre in the tradition of ecocriticism, which is the study of literature and the environment from an interdisciplinary point of view, where literature scholars analyse texts that illustrate environmental concerns and examine the various ways in which literature treats the subject of nature. Henry David Thoreau's system of describing nature writing and its qualities has been used extensively, while Thomas Lyon and Patrick Murphy have extended Thoreau's system by developing taxonomies of nature writing. They distinguish a number of main categories of nature writing situated along a spectrum, on one end of which lie those works mostly concerned with information about the natural world and on the other those engaging in more personal, philosophical reflection (Lyon 1989:3-7; Murphy 2005:5). These taxonomies map the rich diversity in this genre, but Barnhill also considers the taxonomy approach of classifying nature writing a disadvantage in that it does not acknowledge the inner complexity and diversity of individual works of writing. Hence the challenge to improve on these taxonomies. Barnhill calls his scheme an ecosystem, reminding us that such a system involves the interactions between a community and its non-living environment as well as interactions between the elements in it. According to Barnhill (2010:279) each piece of nature writing is an ecosystem in which various elements of nature writing are developed and integrated in a unique way. The abstract categories into which works are placed in a taxonomy become multiple elements within individual works, working in concert with or influencing each other, such as the organisms in an ecosystem. The work of nature rather than the abstract categories takes centre stage. The internal qualities of such works are analysed and described in order to discover the interplay between different elements and how the character of an ecosystem emerges from this. Barnhill (2010:279-282) distinguishes several elements of nature writing: accounts or descriptions of nature, personal experience in nature, social experience of nature, philosophy of nature, spirituality in nature experiences, ecological consciousness, concern with language in representing nature, and ecosocial politics - the latter a term reflecting the interconnectedness of environmental and social issues. In Part 2 of the study an analysis of Boomkastele puts Barnhill's theoretical instrument to the test. The hypothetical point of departure is that the novel resembles an ecosystem comprising the characteristic elements of nature writing found in it. This method ofapproximation focuses on analysing the internal complexity and diversity of Schoombie's novel and arriving at a more complete understanding and a more nuanced description of this work. Ecosocial criticism is found to be a dominant element in Boomkastele, functioning in support ofvarious other elements, such as ecological consciousness and ecosocial critique. Barnhill's approach to nature writing creates a sharpened awareness of the qualities that characterise this genre. Applying his method of describing and evaluating texts to Boomkastele has led to the discovery of the interactive connection between diverse elements in the novel, which lends it the nature of an ecosystem and affirms its multifaceted character.

Keywords : Boomkastele; Schalk Schoombie; Boomkastele; nature writing; ecosystem approach; David Barnhill; ecocriticism.

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