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An alternative view of nature’s otherness in E.Kotze’s short story ‘Halfkrone vir die Nagmaal’
Diepsee: ’n Keur uit die verhale van E. Kotze (2014) refocuses our attention on Kotze’s short story collections which immortalised the sea and the littoral spaces of the West Coast in Afrikaans literature. This study comprises an ecocriticial investigation of the title story in Halfkrone vir die Nagmaal (1982), with attention to the manner in which distancing takes place from the conventional Western way of thinking by which is presumed that human-nature differences may serve to vindicate human domination of, or misconstrue the relationship with, the natural world. Differences between human and nonhuman nature in this narrative is integrated with details which clearly bring the human-nature relationship to light, as well as ideas of connectedness with nature. This leads me to an exploration of the representation of the sea and the natural sea environment as a literary demonstration of an alternative view of nature as the Other. The investigation centres on the discovery of characteristics of anotherness—characteristics in contrast to those of the Other in the dualistic human-nature view in which the key concepts of alienation and objectification still function to defend Western hierarchical power relationships. The alternative model of otherness, with anotherness as key concept, has its origins in Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory concerning the term “relational otherness”. This model has been applied to the field of ecocriticism by Patrick Murphy who describes anotherness as a perception of otherness that respects difference without using it to justify domination or prohibit connection. Murphy emphasises that anotherness proceeds from a heterarchichal—that is, a non-hierarchical—sense of difference. The application of this alternative model of otherness, in the ecocritical context, to “Halfkrone vir die Nagmaal” leads to the discovery of a respectful approach to human-nature differences, where principles of domination or distancing do not apply, but rather those of relations and human-nature interaction. In voicing another nature, Kotze’s acts as “I-for-another” (Bakhtin’s expression) for the earth; her narrative becomes an act of responsibility towards a coastal strip that nowhere else in Afrikaans literature is captured so expansively and poignantly as in her work.
Keywords: alternative model of otherness, anotherness, E. Kotze, “Halfkrone vir die Nagmaal”, human-nature relationship, Mikhail Bakhtin, nature as another, Patrick Murphy.