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n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - "Life?" : modernism and liminality in Douglas Livingstone's : research article

Volume 27, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0258-2279
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Abstract

In an attempt to find his place within nature in South Africa and in a global modern context, Douglas Livingstone returns strongly to modernist poetry in his 1991 volume . In contrast to his predecessors like Wallace Stevens in "The glass of water" and T.S. Eliot in , this volume at critical moments gets stuck in a liminal stage. Images and poems, and eventually the volume as a whole, despite the highlights they present, say that it no longer seems so possible to end up also within the postliminal stage, so as to complete a rite of passage. Yet modernist poems such as Stevens's "The glass of water" have the ability to end up in postliminal affirmation through and beyond the liminal stage of the overall process. Here light becomes a thirsty lion that comes down to drink from the glass, with a resultant transcendence of the dualistic between-ness that characterises the liminal stage in the modernist poetic mode, while this further results in the incorporation of a deeper and refreshing, dynamic unity. Even more remarkable is that this poetic rite is not of a closing nature, but open, especially in the sense that it affirms all that is possible and greater than the individual ego or subject, this, while getting stuck within a liminal stage just short of the postliminal stage can be in the nature of closure, as Livingstone shows, for example, when he says in "Low tide at Station 20" that humanity is trapped in its inability to see the original power of unity with and within nature in order to live within it; and while humanity remains an ugly outgrowth on the gigantic spine of evolution. In provisional conclusion this article finds that it will be better to view Victor Turner's 1979 celebration of what he terms the "liminoid" in the place of a "true liminality" critically. Although it is impossible to return to a collective catharsis in watching a play, one cannot feel too comfortable about getting rid of the cosmological, theological and concrete embeddedness of rites of passage (of which a liminal stage merely forms a part). Van Gennep links these matters, and modernist poets are still able to express these interlinked matters with a powerful, sensitive effect of dynamic unity. Livingstone also does this, but in considerably lesser measure, and from within a considerably more uncertain context. The article ultimately shows that for these reasons and more, Livingstone's volume deserves far more critical reading than it has received to date, and that despite one or two weaknesses - of which the employment of in the rather flimsy "The waste land at Station 14" is the most serious - the volume continues to make a rich contribution to South African life, or within any country that views poetry as an important form of human communication.


Ten einde sy plek te vind in die natuur, in Suid-Afrika en in 'n globale konteks, keer Douglas Livingstone in sy 1991-bundel onder andere sterk terug na die modernistiese poësie. Anders as sy voorgangers soos Wallace Stevens in "The glass of water" en T.S. Eliot in - steek dié bundel in kritiese oomblikke vas in 'n liminale stadium. Die beelde en gedigte, en uiteindelik die bundel as 'n geheel sê ten spyte van die hoogtepunte wat hulle verteenwoordig, dat dit nie meer so moontlik lyk om ook in die postliminale te beland nie. Tog toon modernistiese gedigte soos Stevens se "The glass of water" die vermoë om deur die liminale stadium in postliminale bevestiging te eindig. Lig word hier 'n dors leeu wat aan die glas kom drink, met die gepaardgaande opheffing van die tweeledige tusseninheid wat die liminale stadium kenmerk, en die inkorporering in 'n dieper en verfrissende, dinamiese eenheid. Nog merkwaardiger is dat hierdie poëtiese rite nie uitsluitend van aard is nie, maar juis oop, veral in die sin dat dit alles bevestig wat moontlik is en groter is as die individuale subjek of ego. Dit terwyl die vassteek in die liminale fase kort voor die postliminale fase juis uitsluitend kan wees, soos Livingstone inderdaad aantoon, byvoorbeeld wanneer hy in "Low tide at Station 20" sê dat die mensdom nog steeds die gevangenis is van hulle onvermoë om die oorspronklike krag van eenheid in en met die natuur raak te sien en daarbinne te leef; en terwyl die mensdom maar net 'n lelike uitgroeisel op die reuse ruggraat van evolusie bly. As voorlopige slotsom bevind hierdie artikel dat dit beter sal wees om Victor Turner se 1979-viering van die "liminoïede" - in plaas van 'n "ware liminaliteit" - deeglik krities te beskou. Hoewel ons nie kan terugkeer na 'n kollektiewe katarsis by die aanskoue van 'n toneelstuk nie, kan 'n mens ook nie te gemaklik voel nie oor die ontslaeraak van die kosmologiese, teologiese en konkrete inbedding van rites van oorgang (waarvan 'n liminale fase net deel vorm saam met die postliminale). Arnold Van Gennep koppel hierdie sake nog deeglik aan die liminale, en modernistiese digters gee nog uitstekend vorm aan hierdie opvatting. Livingstone doen dit ook, maar in 'n aansienlike mindere mate en in 'n onsekerder konteks. Die artikel toon uiteindelik dat Livingstone se bundel om hierdie redes veel meer kritiese lees verdien as wat dit tot dusver ontvang het, en dat dit, ten spyte van een of twee gebreke - waarvan die gebruik van in die betreklike flou "The waste land at Station 14" die ernstigste is - 'n veelseggende en ryk bydrae bly in Suid-Afrika, of in enige land wat die poësie beskou as 'n belangrike kommunikasievorm.

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/content/literat/27/1/EJC61895
2006-04-01
2016-12-10

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