The fictions of J. M. Coetzee: master of his craft?
Poyner, Jane (2003) The fictions of J. M. Coetzee: master of his craft? PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
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Official URL: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b1677887~S15
The thesis argues that through the portrayal of a sequence of authors-as-protagonists who write from within the apartheid andpost-apartheid condition, the South African novelist J. M. Coetzee engages with the 'paradox of postcolonial authorship'. Whilst striving symbolically to retrieve the lost and silenced histories of colonised Others, writers of conscience (or conscience-stricken writers) risk re-enacting the very authority they seek to challenge. Taking account of Coetzee's recent material and adding to ongoing debates, the research traces the non-systematic shifts and transitions in the corpus in which Coetzee rehearses and revises his understanding of the ethics of intellectualism in parallel with the emergence of the 'new South Africa'. The thesis identifies three general tendencies in the trajectory of the work. Firstly, the early fiction is read within Coetzee's project of 'demythologising history' as a means of laying bare the 'madness of civilisation' and thereby exposing colonialist history as another ideologically inflected discourse. The middle phase engages with debates about the limits of representing the racial Other. Through the dialectical motifs of speech and silence, Coetzee attempts to bridge the impasse of postcolonial authorship: the racial Others in these novels are both silenced by oppression and silent in resistance. Finally, published on the cusp of regime change, and then postapartheid, the later novels are read as confessions in which the figure of the angstridden and dislocated white writer strives for persoflal nc1 historit tut(' d reconciliation'. The trajectory of the oeuvre crystallises notions of ethical writing practices, sparely portrayed in the sequence of meta-generic 'Costello lectures'. The academic and novelist Elizabeth Costello endorses notions of feeling and sentiment ("heart-speech") over and above the discourses of reason and rationality, thereby developing Coetzee's concern with the formulation of the private speaking to and informing the public sphere. The thesis assesses how successfully, as a member of a white academic elite in South Africa, Coetzee accommodates his various roles as author, public intellectual and citizen (or private individual with both rights, and obligations to society). Overturning Edward Said's formulation of the public intellectual 'speaking truth to power', Coetzee is sceptical about what constitutes 'truth' and refuses to take confrontational positions. Yet, by withdrawing from the public domain as he makes interventions (speaking through Elizabeth Costello, for instance), Coetzee self-consciously problematises his own position (what he might call a 'nonposition'), lending weight to the claim that he is politically evasive.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Coetzee, J. M., 1940- -- Criticism and interpretation, South African fiction (English) -- 20th century, Postcolonialism in literature, Apartheid -- South Africa -- Fiction, Race in literature|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies|
|Sponsors:||Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)|
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