A Narratological Perspective on Douglas Livingstone's A Littoral Zone (1991)/ 'N Narratologiese Perspektief Op Douglas Livingstone Se A Littoral Zone (1991)

Article excerpt


This article explores aspects of the contemporary South African poet Douglas Livingstone's "A littoral zone" (1991) from a narratological point of view, leaning largely on Peter Huhn's narratological concept of the event and Rachei Blau DuPlessis' "hypothesis of poetry as segmentivity" as formulated by Brian McHale (2009:18). A discussion of two juxtaposed poems from the said volume explores how the poems' respective anecdotes and events are segmented, then arranged and sequenced into specific narratives to highlight the speaker's conviction of the necessity of a biological and spiritual connection with the natural environment. In the larger context of the volume there are numerous other narrative tines (in the form of poems about specific experiences the poet had) that are juxtaposed in a similar fashion. Collectively these juxtaposed narrative lines then constitute on the level of the volume as a whole the autobiographical narrative of the poet's development as self-ironic individual. The various anecdotes also contribute to the formation and development of the theme of symbiosis, a theme that has a direct bearing on how the poet sees the gap between humankind's current and supposed connection with nature. The main event of the volume is to be found in the reader's mind." the realisation that bridging this gap is absolutely necessary and that it starts with the individual.


Hierdie artikel verken aspekte van die Suid-Afrikaanse digter Douglas Livingstone se bundel "A littoral zone" (1991) vanuit 'n narratologiese perspektief. Die argument steun grootliks op Peter Huhn se konsep van "event" as 'n bepalende verhalende gebeurtenis, asook Rachel Blau DuPlessis se "hipotese van poesie as segmentiwiteit" soos geformuleer deur Brian McHale (2009:18). 'n Bespreking van twee teenoorstaande gedigte uit die genoemde digbundel toon aan hoe anekdotes en gebeurtenisse gesegmenteer en in spesifieke narratiewe georden is om sodoende die spreker se oortuiging van die noodsaaklikheid van 'n biologiese en spirituele verbintenis met die natuurlike omgewing na vote te bring. In die groter konteks van die digbundel is daar verskeie ander narratiewe lyne (in die vorm van gedigte oor spesifieke ervarings van die digter) wat op 'n soortgelyke wyse teenoor mekaar gestel word. Op die vlak van die digbundel as geheel, dra hierdie teenoorstaande narratiewe lyne gesamentlik by tot die outobiografiese narratief van die digter se ontwikkeling as self-ironiserende individu. Die verskeie anekdotes dra ook by tot die vorming en ontwikkefing van die simbiosetema, 'n tema wat direk gekoppel is aan hoe die digter die gaping tussen die mensdom se huidige en veronderstelde posisie in die natuur beskou. Die hoofgebeurtenis van die digbundel word in die leser se denke gevind: die gewaarwording dat 'n oorbrugging van hierdie gaping absoluut noodsaaklik is en dat dit by die individu begin.

I. Introduction

Douglas Livingstone is regarded by some as South Africa's "first twenty-first century poet" (Chapman, 1995:6), and "South Africa's most important poet of the late twentieth century" (Glenn & Rybicky, 2006:78) writing in English. He is well-remembered for the poetic exploration of his scientific knowledge, resulting in realistic and undiluted portrayals of natural landscapes, without sacrificing his meticuIous sense of poetic lyricism in the process. And yet, a closer look at his work reveals not only this lyricism, but also the extensive and ingenious use of narrative in his poetry. This article will explore A littoral Zone (1991)--Livingstone's penultimate (eighth) volume of poetry--from a narratological point of view to demonstrate the value such an approach has for the elucidation and enrichment of specific themes found in this volume.

Livingstone was born in Malaya in 1932 (Ullyatt, 1976:45). Because his father was in the colonial police, he travelled extensively around the world before coming to South Africa in 1942 during the "Jap war". …


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