Internasionale navorsingstendense dien dikwels as kruisbestuiwing tussen onderskeie dissiplines en lei tot koppelvlakke wat nuwe ondersoekterreine ontwikkel. Ons leef in ’n tyd wat gekenmerk word deur ’n ontploffing van kritieseteorie-navorsing oor die nuwe materialisme en objekgeoriënteerde ontologie/OO (Object Oriented Ontology/OOO) en die invloed daarvan op ekokritiek en ekopoësie. Grense tussen die natuurwetenskappe, filosofie en literatuurteorie en -kritiek word gereeld oorgesteek. Die nuwe materialisme en die objekgeoriënteerde ontologie as teoretiese raamwerke lei tot ’n herbesinning oor materialiteit: dit waaruit ons liggame en die natuurlike wêreld gemaak is. Dit ondersoek opnuut dualismes soos lewend/nielewend, menslik/niemenslik, onderwerp/voorwerp en aktief/passief. Dit lei op sy beurt tot ’n herwaardering van plek as ekokritiese merker.
Die nuwe materialisme as teoretiese raamwerk sien die natuur nie as ’n passiewe sosiale konstruksie nie, maar eerder as ’n bemiddelende krag wat interaksie met en verandering van omringende elemente teweegbring, veral ten opsigte van die mens. Materie is ’n meervlakkige konsep: dit is die materialiteit van die menslike liggaam en van die natuurlike wêreld. Materie is volgens Iovino die substansie van alle dinge en materiële formasies – menslike en niemenslike liggame, lewende en nielewende dinge – verskynings waarvan die bestaan en betekenis met die diskursiewe dimensie verbind is.
In hierdie artikel word die plek as liggaam en liggaam as plek deur middel van ’n ekokritiese en die nuwe-materialisme-benadering verken aan die hand van gekose verse uit Antjie Krog se bundel Verweerskrif (2006). Daar sal aandag gegee word aan “rondeau in vier dele” en “Vier seisoenale waarnemings van Tafelberg”, waarin die wisselwerkende verhouding tussen die liggaamlikheid van die spreker-digter en die liggaamlike materialiteit van plek, spesifiek die berg, verwoord word. Die liggaam van die spreker-digter as plek tree in ’n verbintenis met die berg as liggaam, waardeur ’n diskursiewe ruimte betree word en transliggaamlikheid plaasvind.
Trefwoorde: intra-aksie; materialiteit; nuwe materialisme; objekgeoriënteerde ontologie (OO); transliggaamlikheid; verhaalde materie
International research trends often serve as cross-pollination between different disciplines and lead to connections which develop new areas of investigation. This has also been the case with the renewed focus on the new materialism and its influence on ecocriticism and ecopoetics. New materialism and object-oriented ontology (OOO) as theoretical frameworks lead to a rethinking of materiality: that which our bodies and the natural world around us are made of. It reinvestigates dualisms such as living/non-living, human/non-human, subject/object and active/passive, which in turn leads to a re-evaluation of nature and matter and our relationship with it.
This article draws on the work of researchers such as Serenello Iovino, Susan Hekman and specifically Timothy Morton and introduces a materialistic or matter-centred approach in the analysis of poetry. Object-oriented ontology and the new materialism are forms of realism that assert, in the words of Timothy Morton, “that real things exist”. As theoretical frameworks they do not see nature as a passive social construct, but rather as a mediating force affecting interaction with and the changing of other elements, including man. Matter is a multi-faceted concept: it is the materiality of both the human body and the natural world. Matter, according to Serenella Iovino (2012:135) is the substance of all things and material formations – human and non-human bodies, living and non-living things – emergences of which the existence and meaning are related to the discursive dimension.
An important field of research on materialism is the power of matter to build dynamic meaning of both human and non-human bodies, which finds expression in narratives on matter, or “storied matter”, as Iovino (2012:137) describes it. Storied matter emphasises the materiality of environment, of place and of body and relates to what Tracy Alaimo (2008:9) calls trans-corporeality, and Lawrence Buell’s (2005:62–3, 76–8) concept of translocality, whereby the transition between the inside and outside of every bodily form, whether human or non-human, is charted. What also comes into play is the transition between human and non-human, between living and non-living, and therefore between subject and object.
Material “emergences”, in the words of Serenella Iovino (2012:135), are formed of the human (the poet) and the non-human (the mountain), their existences and their meaning, and they enter into the discursive dimension of a relationship with each other. The object, the mountain, emerges and reacts – thus an object reaction takes place, while a specific reaction is expected from the poet-subject, supposing subject responsibility. Read ecocritically, the poems in question demonstrate not only storied matter, but the mountain, as matter, acting dynamically and narratively – a concept which, in analogy of Iovino’s “storied matter” (Iovino 2012:136), I have in previous research called storying matter (Smith 2012:893). In opposition to “storied matter”, which implies that a story is being told about matter, “storying matter” places the emphasis on the active subject involvement of matter itself.
In this article body as place and place as body are explored through an ecocritical and material approach in a selection of poems from the volume of poetry Body Bereft (2006) (Verweerskrif, 2006), by Antjie Krog. Specific attention is given to the poems “Mountain rondeau in four parts” and “Four seasonal observations of Table Mountain”, in which the relationship and interaction between the corporeality of the narrator-poet and the corporeal materiality of the mountain as place are explored. The body of the narrator-poet as place enters into an alliance with place (the mountain) as body, thereby entering a discursive space and effecting trans-corporeality.
In “Four seasonal observations of Table Mountain” Krog takes a posthumanist stance, a stance which is put into motion by an encompassing concept of the outside-of or the more-than-human world which transcends our regular categories of knowledge and which also questions the previously centralised position of man (and men). Place becomes body when the corporeal sensitivities of place are expressed and place becomes alternately a male or female body with sensory observations and emotions.
Although the physical and sensory characteristics of place as being female are alternated with male images, place as body forms part of the bigger context in this volume of poetry and also in Krog’s oeuvre, in which the female body becomes a metaphor for historical, social, political, landscape and poetic contexts. Krog continuously enters into discourse with the female corporeality, which includes not only the bodies of other women and historical figures, but also the autobiografical body of the self, as indicated by Louise Viljoen (2014:89).
An awareness of cancer in the body of the mountain becomes a predecessor of and eventually a parallel for the awareness of threatening cancer of the female self. The underlying topic with which the poet grapples is the environmental pollution of those natural resources which should be keeping mankind healthy. Physical health of the body becomes a powerful way of reading and interpreting environment and of gaining an understanding of the intimate interwovenness of body and place, as investigated by this poem.
Processes of the human body and the environment are thus connected. Writing poetry is a product of the mind and of logic, but even more so it is a sensuous process, stemming from the sensory perceptions of the body: in the writing and in the reading of the poem it assumes the body as central to the poetic experience. This subjective, bodily connection with place is what Crystal Koch (n.d.:1) defines as an inside-the-body experience. Boundaries between inside and outside blur while the materiality of place and matter and that of the poet or reader becomes less fixed. Blurring of boundaries, or viscous porosity(Tuana 2007:193), is a complex set of interactions among all material objects. The viscous porosity of the body of place and the human body becomes visible in the exchange of oxygen, in dust particles, in water molecules – all that flows in and through the human body, but which is simultaneously part of the non-living matter. Viscous porosity becomes possible not only through biological membranes, but also at social, cultural and political levels.
Koch states that the “[o]uter workings of the natural world” have an effect on the “inner workings of the body”, and thus links between poem and body, as well as between the materiality of the environment and the body, are established. Linda Russo (n.d.:7) describes this relationship of body and place in the ecopoem as “environed making – of walking, breathing, looking, listening, all before language; writing is cogently within material, intellectual, and affective fields at once”. It is a deliberate “trying to write with the trees. Crooked, organic lines of text return to a tree-like within-the-environment-ness” (Russo n.d.:7).
The theory of embodiment sees the material body as the essence of identity. The Afrikaans title of Krog’s volume, Verweerskrif (2006), hints not only at the processes of disintegration and erosion of the body and the recording of these processes, but also at an official document written as a defence – in this instance the writing of the poems as an act of defence. The English title, Body Bereft (2006), emphasises the bereavement of the body that has already taken place and suggests dramatic action, while the Afrikaans title implies a longer, more drawn-out process.
Grosz (1994:22–3) sees the body as a produced, embodied subjectivity. He says, “The body must be regarded as a site of social, political, cultural and geographical inscriptions, productions or constitution” (1994:23). The body is the place where interaction and change takes place, the terrain of geographical interaction; sometimes the materiality of the world stays unchanged by this interaction, sometimes transformations are effected, and sometimes it is becoming the throughway that itself is transformed.
Images of metamorphous equivalence between the corporeal materiality of the body and that of the mountain are established, thereby effecting identification for the female body with the mountain. Mountain-as-rock and female body-as-rock meet; trans-corporeality is effected by the shared images of cancer, and the materiality of the female body is described.
What this article aims to do is to put forward a model of ecological investigation of matter and materiality which ultimately expands our concepts of place, space, time and matter in such a way that it forces us to find new ways to look at co-existence with all objects around us, and to look the future in the eye.
Using object-oriented ontology and the new materialism as lenses through which to look at literary texts opens up new insights into the relationship between man and matter and between man and his place in the environment. It brings about a new way of reading texts in how the literal space and physical matter are encoded in texts and how the words are physically introduced on to the page and the margins of the page – therefore also including the physical environment and place of the reader.
Keywords: intra-action; materiality; new materialism; object-oriented ontology (OOO); trans-corporeality; storied matter; storying matter
Materie is ’n meervlakkige konsep wat gesien kan word as die materialiteit van beide die menslike liggaam en die natuurlike wêreld wat ons omring. Die fisikus Karen Barad (2006:25) wys daarop dat materie nie klein deeltjies natuur of ’n terrein is wat wag op die mens se bydrae om dit betekenisvol te maak nie; dit is ook nie ’n anonieme plek wat die mens moet invul met betekenis of teorieë om daaruit sin te probeer maak nie. Deur hierdie uitspraak maak Barad die belangrike sprong vanaf die materie van die lewende en nielewende wêreld wat ons omring as passiewe, verwyderde entiteit daar buite, na ’n aktiewe, lewenskragtige en deelnemende materialiteit. Dit lewer terselfdertyd ook kommentaar op ’n antroposentriese houding waarin die mens die hoofrol speel en die natuur daar buite in ’n ondersteunende rol die agtergrond vorm.
’n Toonaangewende navorser op die terrein van die nuwe materialisme, Serenella Iovino, maak die volgende uitspraak oor materie:
[Matter is …] the substance of being, but also, more expansively, as a terrain of knowledge and action, something which enriches the ontological perspective with a wider field of significance. Accordingly, material formations, human and nonhuman bodies, are “emergences” whose existence and meanings are strictly connected to the discursive dimensions with which they are entangled. (Iovino 2012:135)