In what has been a regular event since I began teaching
INTO THE DARK CHAMBER: THE NOVELIST AND SOUTH AFRICA
Date: January 12, 1986, Sunday, Late City Final Edition Section 7; Page 13, Column 1; Book Review Desk
Byline: By J. M. Coetzee; J. M. Coetzee, whose most recent novel is ”Life & Times of Michael K,” teaches at the University of Cape Town.
WHEN a colony is founded, wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in ”The Scarlet Letter,” ”among [ the ] earliest practical necessities [ is ] to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.” Prisons – Hawthorne called them the black flowers of civilized society – burgeon all over the face of South Africa. They may not be sketched or photographed, under threat of severe penalty. I have no idea whether laws against visual representations of prisons exist in other countries. Very likely they do. But in South Africa such laws have a particular symbolic appropriateness, as though it were decreed that the camera lens must shatter at the moment it is trained on certain sites; as though the passer-by shall have no means of confirming that what he saw – those buildings rising out of the sands in all their sprawl of gray monotony – was not a mirage or a bad dream.
Jeremias Gotthelf, The Black Spider (Switzerland 1842 )
Thierry Jonquet, Mygale (France 1995)
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Poland/UK 1899)
Energetically and thoughtfully studying the literary rendering of hard historical realities seems like a good one.
Look through the relevant posts on this blog since the midterm.
Seek out useful passages in the novels. Flag them.
Whatever notes you assemble should be IN YOUR OWN LANGUAGE. Doing so is a hugely effective way to prepare.
Have a conversation about the course with some of your classmates. This is actually the purpose of a university education: to arrive at a fuller understanding of the world via discourse.
If you’re still working on a paper, use it as an opportunity to rehearse arguments that might be deployed in some of your responses to prompts on the final.
My money’s on the guy with the iron shirt.
This’d be an interesting companion to Havoc in Its Third Year:
From Nehemiah Wallington’s Historical Notes and Meditations. “The Rebels did rove up and down extraordinary in Ireland,” he writes…
Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General:
From “Historical Atlas” by William R. Shepherd, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1923: