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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


VAN COLLER, H.P.  and  VAN JAARSVELD, Anthea. Deictical patterns in the film version of J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace (2008). Part 1. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.2-2, pp.710-724. ISSN 2224-7912.

In this two part article J.M. Coetzee's eponymous novel, Disgrace (1999) and the 2008-film version thereof will be briefly discussed with a focus on its use of and reference to the Afrikaans farm novel. In White Writing (1988) Coetzee wrote authoritatively on the Afrikaans farm novel and in particular on the novels of C.M. van den Heever, one of the seminal figures in this sub-genre. Core aspects of this sub-genre are lineal consciousness (the farm as an inalienable space and the importance of hereditary succession), the farm as space imbued with patriarchal values and the biblical primogeniture and the preponderance of patriarchy (as can be seen in graves, portraits and heirlooms). Further central concepts are the hierarchical structure of the farm (the owner being the landlord surrounded by vassals: "bywoners" and labourers alike) and the farm as idyllic space in contrast to the town and especially the city which is usually depicted as a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah and the epitomy of all the seven cardinal sins in different forms of debauchery. Whilst the farm is usually represented as a form of a bastion, in Disgrace in particular this aspect is meticulously dismantled. One of our central hypotheses in this study is that Coetzee's novel is in fact a parody of the traditional Afrikaans farm novel (like so many important Afrikaans novels by Etienne Leroux, Marlene van Niekerk, Etienne van Heerden, etc.). This film works with many of these fixed topoi of the farm novel genre, but then clearly in a parodical fashion: patriarchy, succession, social stratification (of specific owner and foreigners), the opposition, place/city, and the importance of the spatial. Another important hypothesis underlying this study is that the South African reader of the novel (and the spectator of the film) responds differently than the international reader and spectator. International critics initially did not even mention the (Afrikaans) farm novel as a field of allusion and as an important intertextual "reference". To explain this theoretically, we use Stuart Hall's definition of culture as a shared body of knowledge and also allude to several theoretical constructs (inter alia habitus, Bourdieu; repertoire, Even-Zohar and discursive formations, Foucault) which are all deterministic in nature and imply that certain knowledge, attitudes and perspectives are internalized on an unconscious level and determine one's decoding of signs or messages. The term we use is deictical patterns because deixis presupposes a shared context and even contextual precognition. In this first part of the study we briefly outline core aspects of film narratology (especially the importance of semiosis) because the interpretation of a film also requires a familiarity with the language of film.

Keywords : Afrikaans farm novel; deictical patterns; film as narrative; film semiotics; representation.

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