Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Maria Mouton in the Heart of the Country?

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Maria Mouton in the Heart of the Country?

Article excerpt

Summary

This article notes and substantiates the intertextual link between an eighteenth-century case of adultery and murder involving Maria Mouton in the Tulbagh area of the Cape of Good Hope and the narrative in J.M. Coetzee's In the Heart of the Country (1977). The details of the crime and subsequent execution of Maria Mouton and her accomplices, which are recorded in the Cape Archives, provide the historical facts that are absorbed into Magda's fictional experiences on a remote Cape farm and inform the intellectual reflections on history that are evident in her discourse. In Coetzee's novel, details such as the porcupine hole in which Magda buries her father are spatial signs which simultaneously reflect repetitions of events from the past, the apparent circularity of rural life, the vacuity of Magda's existence, and her sense of a stifling psychological and sexual incarceration. The porcupine hole is both grave and archaeological site and as such it recalls the digging site in Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians (1981) and the use of archival material in The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee (1998). The use of historical texts in these works acknowledges an indebtedness to the historical discourses which informs the written experience of fictional characters in these works and the act of writing itself. The centrality of the porcupine hole in In the Heart of the Country also reflects the Lacanian and Freudian elements of Magda's relationship with her father, which become the more apparent when viewed against the background of her historical predecessor, Maria Mouton.

Opsomming

Hierdie artikel neem kennis van en bevestig die intertekstuele skakel tussen 'n agtiende-eeuse geval van owerspel en moord, wat op Maria Mouton in die Tulbaghgebied van die Kaap die Goeie Hoop en die narratief in J.M. Coetzee se In the Heart of the Country (1977) betrekking het. Die besonderhede van die misdaad en daaropvolgende teregstelling van Maria Mouton en haar medepligtiges, wat in die Kaapse Argief opgeteken is, voorsien die historiese feite war vervat is in Magda se fiktiewe ervarings op 'n afgelee Kaapse plaas, en verskaf die intellektuele besinning oor geskiedenis wat ooglopend in haar diskoers is. In Coetzee se verhaal is besonderhede, soos die ystervarkgat waarin Magda haar pa begrawe, ruimtelike tekens wat gelyktydig herhalings van gebeure uit die verlede, die oenskynlike sirkel vormigheid van landelike lewe, die saaiheid van Magda se bestaan, en haar bewustheid van 'n versmorende sielkundige en seksuele gevangenskap weerspieel. Die ystervarkgat is tegelyk graf en argeologiese terrein en as sodanig herroep dit die opgrawingsplek in Coetzee se Waiting for the Barbarians (1981) en die gebruik van argiefmateriaal in The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee (1998). Die gebruik van historiese tekste in hierdie werke erken 'n verpligting jeens die historiese diskoerse wat aan die geskrewe ervaring van fiktiewe karakters in hierdie werke en die skryfhandeling self ten grondslag le. Die sentratiteit van die ystervarkgat in In the Heart of the Country weerspieel ook die Lacaanse en Freudiaanse elemente van Magda se verhouding met haar vader, wat al hoe sigbaarder word wanneer dit teen die agtergrond van haar historiese voorganger, Maria Mouton, beskou word.

1

The history of Maria Mouton and the slave Titus of Bengal has been recorded in the Archives of the Cape of Good Hope/Cape Archives, and bronght to public attention by various publications in non-literary fields of study, amongst which are Heese (1994) and Penn (2002) to whom John Hilton refers in a paper in which he proposes that this incident from the history of the Cape of 1714 has, very likely, been co-textualised in In the Heart of the Country. (2) We quote from his relay of the Maria Mouton incident which is based on the Archives and oil the versions provided by Penn and Heese respectively:

The council recorded the facts in its sentence (sententie) as follows: Maria Mouton, who was born in the Netherlands at Middelburgh in the province of Zeeland, had evidently emigrated with her Huguenot parents while she was a young girl to the Cape, where the family obtained land in the remote region known as the "Land van Waveren": (the Tulbagh area). …

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