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An Unlikely Pair: Berlinde De Bruyckere and J.M. Coetzee

Abstract

Despite J.M. Coetzee’s ostensible interest in the issues of - largely speaking - visuality, the links between Coetzee’s oeuvre and ‘images’ have not been sufficiently explored either by art or literary critics. The paper offers a detailed discussion of the cooperation between Coetzee and the Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere which has so far resulted in one installation and two art books co-authored by Coetzee and De Bruyckere. Special attention will be paid to the piece “Cripplewood/Kreupelhout” shown in the Belgian Pavilion of the 2013 Venice Biennial and the catalogue published in its wake. Also, a number of questions related to the nature of Coetzee’s contribution to both projects, the role of a curator and his relationship with the artist, as well as the catalogue’s generic affiliation and its position in Coetzee’s body of works are thoroughly addressed.

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Ute K. Boonen, Ingeborg Harmes i.s.m. Michaela Poß, Truus Kruyt en Gunther De Vogelaer
Niederländische Sprachwissenschaft: Eine Einführung
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“Was de tael gansch het volk?” Comparatief onderzoek naar de Vlaamse en Slowaakse nationale beweging in de 19e eeuw: Een pleidooi om cultuurhistorisch te vergelijken in de neerlandistiek/ “Was the Language Representing the Whole Nation?” A Comparative Approach of the Flemish and Slovak National Movements in the 19th Century: A Plea for Comparative Research in Dutch Studies

Abstract

In this ongoing research we are going to have a look at the starting point for the burgeoning national feelings with two smaller nations: the Slovak and the Flemish national movement. Building on the methodological framework of nationalism researcher Miroslav Hroch, one can discern a threefold stage - model in the national movements of the smaller nations in Europe, which is a thesis still needing more empirical evidence. This article attempts to compare at least one aspect of early nineteenth-century nation - building: How were the literary societies functioning in both national movements? We are working in a time scope of the first half of the 19th century and ask ourselves the questions: until which extend reached literary societies? What was their impact? Which people were their readers, their public? Was their language, and their language-spreading aim representative for the whole nation? What similarities and differences can be found in Flanders and Slovakia in this field?

Important support can be obtained from the NISE - network, which attempts to create a database on a European scale in order to stimulate and optimize comparative and transnational research on nation building.

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“Die hart ’n droë blaar”: Verlies, rou en melancholie in Olga Kirsch se Afrikaanse poësie / “The heart a dry leaf”: Loss, Mourning and Melancholia in Olga Kirsch’s Afrikaans Poetry

Abstract

Reading Olga Kirsch’s Afrikaans poetry, one is struck by the important role that the experience of loss occupies in her oeuvre. It is evident in the first two volumes of poetry she published while still living in South Africa, as well as in the five volumes she published after emigrating to Israel in 1948. Because her poetry, especially the volumes written in Israel, exudes an air of melancholy, this article uses Freud’s writings on loss, mourning and melancholia, as well as the historical tradition preceding his work, as a guideline in exploring the way in which the experience of loss, mourning and melancholy is portrayed in Kirsch’s oeuvre. The article focusses on the way in which loss is portrayed in her poetry: her sense that the Jewish experience of loss over the centuries forms part of her history and identity, the way in which she experiences the loss of South Africa and the language Afrikaans in which she is best able to express herself poetically when she emigrates to Israel, the way in which the loss of her father and mother at different times in her life affected her, her feeling that her experience of loss and the ensuing melancholy are carried over to her children.

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Die poësie van Olga Kirsch: Tuiskoms in vreemdelingskap / The Poetry of Olga Kirsch: Homecoming in Exile

Abstract

In writing my article on the poetry of Olga Kirsch I proceed from each poet’s consciousness of the relationship of tension between his humanity and the art he practises. In the case of Olga Kirsch this inner discord was rendered in her humanity. As second recognised Afrikaans woman poet, after Elisabeth Eybers, she was Jewish by birth and English-speaking, although by her own claim Afrikaans, through her environment and school, was stronger than the English of her parental home.

In Olga Kirsch’s debut volume Die soeklig (1944) she professes the youthful heart’s restless longing for romantic love in poems still far too trapped in clichéd language. I linger extensively at these so that the great breakthrough of her talent in her second volume, Mure van die hart (1948), can be clearly evident. In strong, stripped-down poems she expresses the Zionistic longing of the Jew in the diaspora for the lost homeland, intensified by the Jewish suffering in the Second World War, with specific reference to the Holocaust in “Die wandelende Jood” and “Koms van die Messias.”

After Kirsch’s emigration to Israel in 1948 a silence of twenty-four years followed which was unexpectedly interrupted with the 1972 publication of a thin volume, Negentien gedigte, which impressed especially with “Vyf sonette aan my vader,” which I discuss in detail. In 1975 she visited her native land again and the direct contact with Afrikaans and with the country acted as stimulus for her volume Geil gebied of 1976. The “geil gebied” (fertile area) is a metaphor for the rich subsoil of the poem and for the poem itself. In my discussion of Negentien gedigte and Geil gebied I concentrate on her inner dividedness as being inherently part of her human nature, enhanced by the knowledge that she remained irrevocably attached to her native land and to her Jewish homeland. I point out that the only way she can be healed of this dividedness is by writing her another self in her poems in which she arrives home in both countries, the omnipresence of God and the presence of the beloved husband. Lastly I indicate Olga Kirsch’s enduring place in the Afrikaans tradition of poetry through her procreative influence on other poets or by the way they relate to her poetry.

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Jan Greshoff se ‘aanval’ op Olga Kirsch as een van die hoofredes vir haar emigrasie: ’n Psigoanalitiese beskouing / Jan Greshoff’s ‘Attack’ on Olga Kirsch as One of the Main Causes of Her Emigration: A Psychoanalytical Point of View

Abstract

The poet Olga Kirsch left South Africa permanently for Israel in 1948. It is evident from her poetry that her Zionism, opposition to the racism of the National Party and a failed love played a role in her decision. This article focuses on another reason - a public attack by the Dutch critic Jan Greshoff in an Afrikaans literary magazine in 1946. Using concepts from psychoanalytical theories around borderline and narcissistic personalities, as well as the effect of emigration, Kirsch’s actions are examined as a reaction to narcissistic wounding. Investigating Greshoff’s criticism gives insights into the poet’s actions and explains the hiatus before she started publishing again in Afrikaans from 1971. It is stated that the poet is not considered to be a narcissist as her oeuvre is a testimony to her empathy with others, but the healthy narcissism needed in building one’s self-esteem underwent a severe blow when Kirsch lost the man she loved and was humiliated so devastatingly by the great Dutch critic.

Open access
The Men in the Life and Work of Olga Kirsch

Abstract

Olga Kirsch’s life and work was dominated by three men: her father Schmuel M. Kirsch, her youth lover Ellis, and her husband Joseph Gillis. Their presence can be felt throughout her oeuvre, both in her published Afrikaans and in her unpublished English poetry culminating in a collection of seventy-seven poems written in the months that followed the death of her husband. Through these poems the reader is introduced to a passionate side of Kirsch’s personality that was rarely seen by those who knew her in the normal course of her life. These three relationships resulted in some of Kirsch’s most beautiful poetry, of which her “Vyf sonnette vir my vader” is probably the best known.

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’n Nuwe lewe: Olga Kirsch se studentegedig “Resurrexit” / A New Life: Olga Kirsch’s Student Poem “Resurrexit”

Abstract

The poem “Resurrexit” published by Olga Kirsch in 1945 in the student paper WU´s VIEWS has been all but forgotten. It is, however, a beautiful and an important poem with a pantheistic character. It commemorates the death of the young Jewish flight navigator lieutenant Alec Medalie, whose fighter plane was shot down by German antiaircraft fire near the Yugoslavian coast in 1944. Psychoanalysis opens the poem up to a reading which turns the typical male symbolic order’s death and men’s chaos caused by war into the young man’s rebirth as a new form of being. This happens through the maternal earth’s uterine sea. The fallen is absorbed by the sea and after a period taken up into the clouds to return to the mother and the earth, albeit in a new form. The concept of the chora plays a part in this resurrection which offers consolation to all who are subject to the inevitable uncertainty of the human condition and those who stay behind after a sudden death.

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Olga Kirsch: ’n Vreemde boom op hierdie aarde / Olga Kirsch: A Strange Tree on This Earth

Abstract

The article traces the lasting alienation of Olga Kirsch (1927-1994), a Jewish-born South African poet, as represented in her seven volumes of Afrikaans poetry published between 1944 and 1983. Growing up in a devoutly Christian, Afrikaans-speaking rural community, she found herself an outsider. The conditions at home brought little comfort, while the awareness of the racial discrimination which permeated society further contributed to her isolation. Seeking for a heimat, she emigrated to Israel at the age of 24. Reading her poetry, it becomes clear that here, too, she remained a stranger, continuing to write and publish in Afrikaans.

Open access