The interplay between space, masculinity and the shadow in Lente in Beijing and Die Dao van Daan van der Walt

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The interplay between space, masculinity and the shadow in Lente in Beijing and Die Dao van Daan van der Walt

In this article, the novels Lente in Beijing (Spring in Beijing) (2003) by Francois Loots and Die Dao van Daan van der Walt (The Dao of Daan van der Walt) (2018) by Lodewyk G. du Plessis are analysed within the framework of Jungian psychoanalytic criticism. Cuddon (2013:568) describes psychoanalytic criticism as “a body of criticism which seeks to explain the significance of literary texts in terms of psychological development and conflict”. This study utilises psychoanalytic criticism since it can significantly contribute to the interpretation of texts by helping uncover hidden meanings or the reasons for internal conflict in a novel. In both novels, the search for identity is a central theme. According to Hall and Du Gay (1996:4), identity/identities concern “what we might become, how we have been represented, and how that bears on how we might represent ourselves”.

A psychological process that relates to this is individuation, as described by Carl Gustav Jung. Individuation refers to the maturation of the personality, where the unconscious and the shadow that form part of it are integrated into consciousness (Jung 2014b:355, 278; Leigh 2015:96). Both the literal and figurative journeys in the novels place the focus on individuation. The novels also share the theme of gay men who have relationships with other men in China – which links with the characters’ acceptance of their true sexuality as well as their masculinity. Therefore, this study also involves gender studies, in which identity is a core concept. Since psychoanalytic criticism can sometimes overlook historical, social or other contexts (Barry 2009:115), this study also connects with other theories, specifically regarding masculinity.

The novels aren’t interpreted purely as the individuation process; rather, the focus is on the manifestation of the shadow – the ways in which it can be observed through characters’ actions, dialogue, etc. – and how this ties in with masculinity. I specifically investigate the interplay between space, the discourses of masculinity within spaces in the novels, and how these discourses impact the shadows of the two respective main characters, Gerhard and Daan. The focus is on how the personal shadow manifests in complexes, projections and dreams/visions, as well as its relation to discourses in certain spaces. Space within the scope of this article refers to concrete spaces as well as to how characters can act as extensions of spaces (Brink 1989:118). The shadow is expressed through defence mechanisms, especially projection. Tyson (1999:17) defines defence mechanisms as “the processes by which the contents of our unconscious are kept in the unconscious. People have different defence mechanisms as ‘ways of dealing with outer as well as inner reality’” (Holland 1990:67). The personal unconscious is organised and fuelled by psychological complexes (Bologna, Trede and Patton 2020:3527). With projection, individuals channel their negative feelings towards themselves onto someone else (Freud 1920:218). Moreover, we as people have personas which are the image(s) of ourselves that we project socially (Crous 1991:104). Jung and Hull (2022:464) explain that the persona allows one to associate effectively with the social world, but it becomes problematic when people over-identify with it, cutting themselves off from self-reflection, specifically the ability to examine their shadow (Bologna et al. 2020).

In Afrikaans literature, space and identity have been researched together, often with regard to postcolonial theory. Few Afrikaans studies, however, place the focus on the interplay between the shadow and space in a literary work. Identity is also often linked with discourse theory in Afrikaans literature research. Discourse theory, developed by the French philosopher Michel Foucault, shows how discourse determines how something is said and how it cannot or may not be said (Wetherell, Taylor and Yates 2001:72). According to Foucault (1970:52) discourse is produced in each community through procedures such as selection, control, organisation and distribution. The procedure of exclusion, such as with censorship, is well known. In the two novels, there are preconceived ideas about how the main characters must act in certain spaces based on the discourses in those spaces surrounding masculinity. M.S. Kimmel and many other researchers have shown how masculinity, just like gender, is a social construct. According to Connell (2001:141), masculinities refer to different facets/varieties of masculinity. In Afrikaans literature, Visagie (2004) gives an overview of masculine subjectivity in Afrikaans prose from 1980 to 2000. He notes that the Afrikaans prose of male writers, even gay writers like Koos Prinsloo, are all written in relation to hegemonic masculinity – which is the standard of masculinity that men try to attain at a certain point in time (Visagie 2004:249).

In Lente in Beijing, Gerhard suppresses aspects of his masculinity which are seen as negative by the women in his workspace, even though it corresponds to the ideals of masculinity in the space(s) he grew up in. Consequently, Gerhard has a “less manly” persona and suffers from a victim complex projected mainly onto the women at his work. This complex also leads to a lack of accountability. Gerhard’s shadow comes more to the fore in China, among other ways through his (sexual) relations and his aggression when he hits a prostitute. Despite this, there is not much proof of integration of his victim complex, and it manifests in projections until the end of the novel. It is only when responsibility is forced on him – when he is forced to adopt Lulu – that he shows some form of shadow integration and growth.

In Die Dao van Daan van der Walt, in the Kalahari where Daan spends most of his years, masculinity is associated mainly, and positively, with the Bible. Consequently, Daan suppresses his homosexuality, suffers from an inferiority complex, and develops a very religious and intellectual persona. He projects his ideals of masculinity onto his son and his inferiority complex onto his wife. It is, however, mainly through his persona that he tries to protect his shadow. Daan’s relocation to Cape Town and China was largely against his will. The new discourse surrounding religion and sexuality, as well as the Chinese space, gave Daan the opportunity to uphold a “less manly” persona and to integrate his homosexuality into his faith framework and his personality.

The conclusion from this study is that both novels show an interplay between the space(s), the discourse around masculinity, the characters’ shadows, as well as their personas. In both novels, the shadow is expressed through complexes, projections and dreams (mainly Daan) or visions (mainly Gerhard). Moreover, relocation or a change in space – and in Daan’s case also meeting You Mei, who acts as an extension of the Chinese space – contributes to individuation in both novels. However, it could also be said that it is a combination of new space(s) and a measure of unwillingness that leads to individuation and shadow integration. Comparison with a wider scope of novels is necessary to draw more concrete conclusions.

Keywords: archetype; complex; conscious; gay; homosexuality; individuation; Carl Gustav Jung; literature; projection; psychoanalytic criticism; psychocriticism; religion; shadow; unconscious



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Die wisselwerking tussen ruimte, manlikheid en die skaduwee in Lente in Beijing en Die Dao van Daan van der Walt

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