Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

"Living in a Place Called Exile": The Universals of the Alienation Caused by Isolation (1)

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

"Living in a Place Called Exile": The Universals of the Alienation Caused by Isolation (1)

Article excerpt

Abstract

"Living in a place called exile": The universals of the alienation caused by isolation

Although various aspects of Ovid's emotional reactions to exile have been researched, there has so far been no extended practical study that places the emotional content of his works into a new political context. In this respect Ovid's voicing of his experiences can serve to illuminate the experiences of latter-day exiles. This article attempts to establish, by literary means, a picture of the alienation attendant upon exile and its sublimation. For this purpose the poetry of Ovid, as well as that of certain modern authors, is used as illustration. There are many parallels between the Rome of the turn of our era and the South Africa of previous decades: exile was a political weapon in both. Themes reflecting alienation in Ovid's poems are universal, and still valid in situations of exile today. Ovid's portrayal of his own exiled persona is used to draw a psychological profile of the experiences of alienation during such exile. This profile may be termed the "universals of alienation", which is applied to the exile or imprisonment of the victims of contemporary political upheaval. The extent to which the verbalisation of such alienation serves to heal such a wounded soul is explored.

Opsomming

"Oro te woon in 'n plek genaamd ballingskap": die universalia van vervreemding veroorsaak deur afsondering

Hoewel daar al heelwat aandag geskenk is aan Ovidius se emosionele reaksie op sy ballingskap, is daar tot dusver geen uitgebreide studie ondemeem wat die emosionele inhoud van sy werke in 'n nuwe politieke konteks plaas nie. In hierdie opsig kan Ovidius se verwoording van sy gewaarwordinge dien om die ervarings van moderne ballinge toe te lig. Die artikel trag om uit die letterkunde "n beeld te bepaal van die vervreemding wat veroorsaak word deur ballingskap en die verwerking daarvan. Vir hierdie doel word Ovidius se poesie en ook die van sekere moderne skrywers as toeligting gebruik. Daar is baie parallelle tussen die Rome van die eerste eeu en die Suid-Afrika van die jongste verlede. Ballingskap is in albei kontekste as 'n politieke wapen ingespan. Temas wat vervreemding in Ovidius se gedigte voorstel, is universeel en ewe geldig in hedendaagse ballingskapsituasies. Ovidius se uitbeelding van sy eie verbanne persona word ontleed ten einde 'n sielkundige profiel van die ervaring van vervreemding tydens sodanige afsondering te trek. Hierdie profiel, dit wil se die "universalia van vervreemding" word bepaal en toegepas op die hedendaagse verbanning (en ook opsluiting) van slagoffers van politieke onrus. Die artikel ondersoek die mate waartoe die verwoording van sodanige vervreemding 'n verwonde gees kan heel.

1. Introduction

Exile, a political act with extreme emotional consequences, was used as a political tool by the Roman emperor Augustus. It also became a major factor in the South African political struggle. There are many parallels between first-century Rome and the South Africa of the recent past. The aim of this article is to establish, by literary means, a picture of the alienation attendant upon exile and its sublimation. For this purpose the poetry of the Roman poet, Ovid, as well as that of certain modern authors, are used as an illustration. In addition the personal narratives of South African political refugees, according to Clifford Shearing, also "need to be noted in a literary way"--that is, to be interpreted, like fiction (quoted in Bernstein 1994:290). (2)

There has so far been no extended study that places the emotional content of Ovid's works into a new political context. (3) The South African poet, Stephen Gray, features Ovid in his collection of poems on diverse dislocations, and very deliberately repositions the poet into a modern milieu: "To charm Caesar I must turn my local friends into savages ... their whooping cousins crossing / the Danube, or call it the Kei, into this Colony . …

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