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n Journal of Literary Studies - "What dignity is there in that?" : the crisis of dignity in selected late-twentieth-century novels

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Abstract

This article offers an investigation of the concept of dignity and of some of the ways in which it has been represented in a number of late-twentieth-century novels. Discussions of dignity centre, on the one hand, upon qualities which the personality reveals in and of itself, and, on the other, upon ethical imperatives relating to how the individual should behave in relation to others. Debates about dignity thus open up questions of ontology, selfhood and the obligations of people towards one another. Two works in particular, in which the concept and status of dignity are explicitly and substantially addressed, are focused upon, Kazuo Ishiguro's <I>The Remains of the Day&lt;/I&gt; (1989) and Nadine Gordimer's <I>July's People&lt;/I&gt; (1981). Significantly, both these texts explore the notion of dignity in relation to servitude. What the analysis reveals is that Ishiguro's and Gordimer's novels do not present dignity as an absolute good or as something which may be considered in isolation from the tensions, imperfections and imbalances of human society. Instead, it is shown to be affected by and implicated in the exercise of power, especially in relation to class and race.

In hierdie artikel word daar ondersoek ingestel na die begrip van waardigheid en sommige van die wyses waarop dit in 'n aantal romans van die laat twintigste eeu daargestel word. Die bespreking van waardigheid wentel enersyds rondom die kwaliteite wat die persoonlikheid in en van sigself vertoon, en andersyds rondom etiese imperatiewe wat verband hou met hoe die indiwidu in verhouding tot ander behoort op te tree. Die debat rondom waardigheid ontsluit dus vraagstukke rondom ontologie, die wese van die self en mense se verpligtinge teenoor mekaar. Die studie konsentreer veral op twee werke waarin die konsep en status van waardigheid eksplisiet en in detail aangespreek word, naamlik Kazuo Ishiguro se <I>The Remains of the Day&lt;/I&gt; (1989) en Nadine Gordimer se <I>July's People&lt;/I&gt; (1981). Dit is opmerklik dat albei werke die idee van waardigheid in die konteks van gedienstigheid ondersoek. Die ontleding toon dat Ishiguro en Gordimer se romans waardigheid nie daarstel as 'n absolute waarde of as iets wat afgesonderd van die spanninge, onvolmaakthede en wanbalanse in die samelewing oorweeg kan word nie. Dit word eerder beskou as iets wat aangetas word deur en betrek word in die uitoefening van mag, veral in terme van klas en ras.

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/content/litstud/20/1_2/EJC62370
2004-06-01
2016-12-08
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