<b>The Postcolonial Ecopoetics of Patricia Grace’s <i>Tu</i>: The Compost and The Labyrinth</b> // La ecopoética postcolonial en <i>Tu</i> de Patricia Grace: El compost y el laberinto

  • Jessica Maufort Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Keywords: Ecopoetics, postcolonial fiction, New Zealand/Māori literature, human/non-human mesh, labyrinth and compost, the mind and the world // Ecopoética, ficción postcolonial, literatura maorí/de Nueva Zelanda, malla humana/no humana, laberinto y compost


      This article argues that renowned Māori/New Zealand writer Patricia Grace devises an ecopoetics of randomness and design in her novel Tu through the manifold image of the labyrinthine compost. The biological processes of the compost and the spatial dynamics of the maze complement one another in this narrative. Both the maze and the compost foreground the liminality, the ordered and chaotic aspects, of physical dwelling places and social structures. The tortuous layout as well as the putrefying and recycling dynamics characterising the war-torn environment of Tu are mirrored in the intricate prose of the main protagonist’s diaries. His complex psychological regeneration is also influenced by composting processes. Grace’s labyrinthine compost evokes a “postcolonial ecopoetics” that debunks the loaded associations of randomness with life-threatening wildness, and of design with ordered civilisation, associations which characterised much of the colonial ideology. Whether construed as biological, spatial or cultural concepts, chaos and order in the maze-like compost of Tu appear as complementary rather than completely opposed processes.



     Este artículo sostiene que la reconocida escritora maorí de Nueva Zelanda Patricia Grace concibe una ecopoética de aleatoriedad y diseño en su novela Tu a través de la imagen múltiple del compost laberíntico. Los procesos biológicos del compost y las dinámicas espaciales del laberinto se complementan entre sí en esta narrativa. Tanto el laberinto como el compost ponen de relieve la liminalidad, los aspectos ordenados y caóticos de las viviendas físicas y las estructuras sociales. El diseño tortuoso, así como las dinámicas de putrefacción y reciclaje que caracterizan el entorno devastado por la guerra de Tu se reflejan en la intrincada prosa de los diarios del protagonista principal. Su compleja regeneración psicológica también está influenciada por los procesos del compostaje. El compost laberíntico de Grace evoca una ‟ecopoética postcolonial” al desacreditar las asociaciones cargadas de aleatoriedad con el salvajismo que amenaza la vida, y de diseño con civilización ordenada, asociaciones que caracterizan gran parte de la ideología colonial.  Ya sea que se interpreten como conceptos biológicos, espaciales o culturales, el caos y el orden en el compost laberíntico de Tu aparecen como procesos complementarios en lugar de completamente opuestos.


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Author Biography

Jessica Maufort, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)

Dr Jessica Maufort holds Masters degrees in Modern Languages and Literatures from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and in English Literature from King's College London. With support from a research fellowship of the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS), she recently completed her doctoral research at ULB (2018). Her thesis examined Indigenous and non-Indigenous novels from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada through the lenses of postcolonial ecocriticism, ecopoetics, and magic realism. Other research interests include material ecocriticism, ecospirituality, postcolonial studies, experimental forms of realism, and Pacific literature. Jessica is the postgraduate officer of the New Zealand Studies Association and an editorial assistant of Recherche littéraire/Literary Research, a bilingual journal specialising in comparative literature. She is currently a teaching assistant at ULB.

Articles: Toward an Ecopoetics of Randomness and Design