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    Sobriquet 44.23

    Wednesday, July 30, 2008
    Lately, I have been a bit down on myself for taking as long as I have to work on the dissertation. I know that some people are capable of breezing through the process, churning out passably good scholarship on their way to finishing the dissertation, their degree, and their education in what often seems like no time at all. I'm not one of those people. I am rather deliberate with my research, painstakingly ensuring that I read each and every word of criticism on Coetzee, even when it seems repetitive and more than a little pointless. Likewise, I try to do a small amount of work each day, concentrating as intensely as I can rather than cram as much work into as short a time period as possible, figuring that I will retain more information that way.

    And, still, it's frustrating.

    I mean, I know some people turn in work that is of poorer quality that that I am aiming to produce and I know that many of those people pass and receive their doctorates, but I cannot bring myself to accept that sort of work from myself. Instead, I keep plugging away and I keep trying not to allow the doubts creep into my consciousness and find purchase there. The truth of the matter is that no two dissertations are the same just as no two individual scholars are the same. Some subjects are easier to research than others, some people are far more prolific writers than their colleagues, and some people simply possess certain talents that their peers lack and that will give them an edge. And, of course, some people work their way through graduate school while others take loans or receive grants.

    The funny thing is that all this was prompted by some fellow graduate student's inadvertent announcement to the entire list-serv that, though he is not yet an A.B.D. student, he will finish his dissertation in less than a year. I thought to myself, "shit, Erik, why can't you work that fast?" I realize that dissertation-writing is not a race, that one does best when one focuses on meeting his or her own needs rather than fulfilling the expectations of others, but, man, I wanna be done, like, six months ago.

    At any rate, the three articles I've not yet discussed on the blog are sitting atop my desk and I'd like to address them briefly. Of the trio, Vilashni Cooppan's "National Literature in Transnational Times: Writing Transition in the 'New' South Africa" had the least to do with Disgrace since, as its title suggests, the article deals with a mode of writing rather than a single work. Still, in situating Coetzee's novel within a transitional mode, Cooppan raises some interesting points. Since "[a]partheid in Disgrace," Cooppan argues, "is an action not yet carried through to its conclusion," we may read the novel as a snapshot of a "moment that lives the difference between the apartheid 'then' and the postapartheid 'now' as a break, a discontinuity between states rather than an either/or choice between the preconfigurative fulfillment of an anticipated identity and the burial of an obsolete one" (363). Thus, "Disgrace ends by oscillating between times and states, death and birth, the past of the completed perfective and the unknown yet hopeful future to come," precisely the focus of so many recent critical discussions of the novel (363).

    The other two essays I read -- Ariella Azoulay's "An Alien Woman/a Permitted Woman: On JM Coetzee's Disgrace" and Georgina Horrell's "JM Coetzee's Disgrace: One Settler, One Bullet and the 'New South Africa'" -- focus largely on Lucy Lurie's role in the novel. The novel, for Azoulay, poses a challenge for the reader: to find a connection between Lucy's attack and David's assault on Melanie Isaacs. Backed by psychoanalytic notions of trauma, Azoulay reads Disgrace as an exercise in "adopt[ing] a nomadic point of view . . . which is capable of looking at reality from contradictory viewpoints" in order to perceive the complex layers of pain, retribution, and healing omnipresent throughout the novel and in places like South Africa (37). Horrell's essay also deals with trauma, though she focuses on the ways in which "an inscription of [colonial] guilt is performed upon gendered flesh" (32). In other words, Horrell scrutinizes Coetzee's use of Lucy Lurie as the canvas upon which the accumulated anger underlying generations of racial tension in South Africa is violently expressed.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay, work on the bibliography, or read some of Coetzee's essays or interviews.

    Works Cited

    Azoulay, Ariella. "An Alien Woman/a Permitted Woman: On JM Coetzee's Disgrace." scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 33-41.

    Cooppan, Vilashini. "National Literature in Transnational Times: Writing Transition in the 'New' South Africa." Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation. Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood, eds. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005. 346-369.

    Horrell, Georgina. "JM Coetzee's Disgrace: One Settler, One Bullet and the 'New South Africa.'" scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 25-32.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, July 29, 2008
    All right. It's been nearly a fortnight since I have had the time to sit down and write about my dissertation. Between long hours spent behind the wheel, time devoted to my family and friends, excessive humidity, hard (non-academic) work, and an unfortunate lack of internet access, I have barely had the opportunity to read, let alone post any blog entries about that reading. Still, I did manage to read Youth as well as several (admittedly brief) critical essays on Coetzee.

    Of the five critical readings, two were book reviews. The first, Michael Upchurch's "Facing 'Disgrace,'" is a solid, if run-of-the mill, reading of Coetzee's novel. Despite finding fault with Coetzee's depiction of females and the novel's often oblique literary allusions, Upchurch ultimately praises Coetzee for his ability to weave a multi-layered narrative out of deceptively "spare...arid" prose ("Facing"). The second review, Susan Ram's excellent "A Comprehension of Life" is one of the most thorough and insightful reviews I have come across, touching on both the novel's more commonly discussed themes as well as several of the book's less obvious concerns.

    I also read Derek Attridge's introduction to Coetzee's Inner Workings. Despite reading the essay with the cynicism of someone struggling to muster the energy to keep reading the seemingly endless pile of literary criticism sitting atop his desk, Attridge's argument for the value of reading a single critic's essays makes an awful lot of sense to me. I mean, if we regard the literary critic as a thinker first and foremost, it stands to reason that a comprehensive reading of his or her criticism will often yield a worldview as complex and unified as that of a philosopher.

    I also read two journal articles, which I will try to discuss tomorrow. Now, though, I think it's time for bed.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay, read some of Coetzee's criticism, or work on my bibliography.

    Works Cited

    Attridge, Derek. "Introduction." Inner Workings. By J. M. Coetzee. New York: Penguin, 2007. ix-xiv.

    Ram, Susan. "A Comprehension of Life." Frontline. 16.25 (1999). Available online.

    Upchurch, Michael. "Facing 'Disgrace' -- J . M. Coetzee Creates a Flawed, Intriguing Character in Post-Apartheid South Africa." Seattle Times 7 Nov. 1999. Available online.

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    ____________________________________________
    As I've intimated in my more recent updates, I have not been able to secure a stable internet connection in over a week. Now that it seems like I have found one, I find myself too sleepy to write anything worth reading. Ironic, innit?

    I will say that I did managed to finish reading Youth this afternoon and I positively loved the book. The fictionalized memoir is easily one of the best portraits of an artist as a young man that I have come across and the late adolescent John Coetzee deserves a place alongside Joyce's Stephen Dedalus, Fitzgerald's Amory Blaine, and Mykle's Ask Burlefot as one of the twentieth century's most memorable bildungsroman protagonists.

    For tomorrow: Read an article on Disgrace or, if I'd prefer, a bit of Inner Workings.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, July 27, 2008
    Since my internet access is spotty at best for the time being, I will just say that I have continued reading Youth and some critical writing on Coetzee and will continue doing so, whether or not I can get online to report it.

    That said, Youth is awesome. I mean really, really, really good.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, July 20, 2008
    After a third straight day of running errands in uncomfortable humidity made all the more unbearable by mercury topping the ninety-degree mark, I am thoroughly exhausted. Still, I have been reading Youth and enjoying it tremendously. So far, I find that the memoir resonates with me in ways that Coetzee's other writing does not. The figure of the young John Coetzee as a budding scholar with artistic aspirations consistently engages my imagination, energizes the nascent scholar in me, and soothes the anxieties engulfing my own creative self. It's nice.

    Since I will have to take a break from blogging over the next few days, I will not post a "for tomorrow" assignment for myself. Instead, I will simply announce my intention to continue reading the memoir and/or Disgrace criticism each day until I have the time to sit down in front of the computer again.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, July 19, 2008
    Since today has been a busy day chock full o' errand running and because the heat and humidity have sapped me of any remaining energy, I will have to keep today's post extremely brief. I will be reading a bit of Youth before bed because I really haven't the energy to read any criticism, but I hope to return to the critical readings soon enough.

    For tomorrow: Read another article or a bit of Youth.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, July 18, 2008
    Of the three essays I've read since I last discussed the critical writing on Disgrace, only one really stands out as what I would consider "required reading." I should emphasize that the other two essays, both taken from boundary2's "Symposium on Disgrace," are not poorly written; they're just not likely to figure into my own work and do not add much to my understanding of the novel.

    The first of the pair, Louise Bethlehem's "Pliant/Compliant; Grace/Disgrace; Pliant/Compliant," as one might infer from the title, devotes a fair amount of space to linguistic analysis while exploring the author's modes of representation. Hannan Hever's "Facing Disgrace: Coetzee and the Israeli Intellectual," the second boundary2 article I read (which was, coincidentally, translated by Bethlehem), uses Coetzee's depiction of the unanticipated cultural milieu of post-Apartheid South Africa to embark upon a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, focusing specifically on the intellectual's role in the tumultuous region upon realizing that the "Messianic" solutions hitherto envisioned do not account for the fact that "the resolution, the 'end,' of the struggle is only a point along a continuously unfolding trajectory" (45).

    The essay I most enjoyed and which genuinely contributed a good deal to my own thinking about Coetzee's novel is Susan Smit-Marais and Marita Wenzel's excellent "Subverting the Pastoral: The Transcendence of Space and Place in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Taking a cue from Rita Barnard, the authors convincingly show how Coetzee inverts the conventions of the South African plaasroman in Disgrace. With as thorough a reading as any student of Coetzee could hope for, Smit-Marais and Wenzel reveal Coetzee's intricate weaving of pastoral conventions into an extremely complex critique of colonialism and its long-reaching socio-political aftermath. While virtually every sentence of the essay rings true, I was most impressed with the authors' brief discussion of Coetzee's use of nature (traditionally a reflection of the white settler's psychological satisfaction, it usually emphasizes "pureness, growth and life") to foreground the exhausted, barren state of South African society after a "history of colonial exploitation and dispossession" (214). And this is only one of many extremely good discussions in thiss exceptional essay.

    For tomorrow: read an article or a bit more of Youth.

    Works Cited

    Bethlehem, Louise. "Pliant/Compliant; Grace/Disgrace; Pliant/Compliant." scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 20-24.

    Haver, Hannan. "Facing Disgrace: Coetzee and the Israeli Intellectual." scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 42-46.

    Smit-Marais, Susan and Marita Wenzel. "Subverting the Pastoral: The Transcendence of Space and Place in J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Beyond the Threshold: Explorations of Liminality in Literature. Eds. Hein Viljoen and Chris Van Der Merwe. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. 209-21.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, July 17, 2008
    Well, I did it again. I found the prospect of reading more criticism so unappealing that I waited until I was practically asleep to finally accept the fact that I wouldn't be reading any. Instead, I opted to begin reading Youth, having provided myself with that escape hatch in yesterday's post. The thing is, the essay I struggled to get into yesterday is actually one of the best pieces of literary criticism that I have read in recent months. The only conclusion that I can draw is that, having read a few dozen essays on Disgrace, I really need a change of pace.

    The problem, however, is that the critical discussion surrounding Disgrace is quite a bit larger than that surrounding most novels. And so I toil, impatiently putting off starting the chapter on Disgrace until I dutifully read each and every article that I can find pertaining to the novel.

    As I have said before, I have reached a point in my reading where very few essays present information or readings that I haven't already encountered elsewhere while, at the same time, I continue to feel intense obligation to ensure that I familiarize myself with all the existent critical writing on Disgrace, and that's where the root of my frustration lies: I am impatient to get going on my next chapter. This moment, then, is yet another period of time during which I must practice the opposite behavior of that to which I am most inclined. In other words, this is another step towards mastering what may be the most valuable lesson in dissertation-writing: success relies on a combination of hard work, dedication, faith, confidence and, above all, the ability to accept the strain of dream deferral.

    At any rate, I love what I have read of Youth so far.

    For tomorrow: Same story, different day (read another essay or continue reading Youth).

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, July 16, 2008
    Since I stayed up until close to two in the morning watching a Major League Baseball All-Star Game that lasted long enough to give the Iowa Baseball Confederacy a run for its money, I won't write much tonight. It was really, really nice to have some friends over (thanks Minxy, Jesse, and Danielle!) and, since the American League won the utterly meaningless game, I go to bed with a contentment that will surely last until the hideous bleating of my alarm clock rips me out of bed.

    For tomorrow: Try to read another essay. Failing that, read some of Youth.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, July 15, 2008
    Since today has been an uncommonly long day for me and because I'm extremely sleepy, I won't say much tonight. Basically, I am going to finish reading a brief essay before going to bed and I'll try to discuss it tomorrow evening. Hopefully I will be a bit more alert by then.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, July 14, 2008
    Although I read two essays in the past two days, there isn't a whole lot for me to say. Chelva Kanaganayakam's "The Anxiety of Being Postcolonial: Ideology and The Contemporary Postcolonial Novel" only briefly addresses Disgrace in its discussion of current postcolonial literature. For Kanaganayakam, Coetzee's novel "is often misread" because it is written in "a nascent form that has not yet been adequately identified" (49). This new literary mode emerges out of the writer's desire to produce fiction "in situations that require political engagement without a clear bias" (48). Coetzee's attempt to confront this situation, Kanaganayakam asserts, results in a deceptively simple "character-driven novel that only intermittently touches upon the political scene" while "remind[ing] the reader that the concerns are larger than that of straightforward social realism" (48). This "ambivalence is a measure of the anxiety of the author and the predicament of the Afrikaaner in South Africa...the anxiety of realizing that the middle position is not tenable" (48-49).

    The second brief essay that I read, Gertrude B. Makhaya's "The Trouble With JM Coetzee," is less a critical examination of Disgrace than a contrast of the tumultuous critical and political responses to the novel upon its release with the more favorable treatment of the novel in the South African press following the author's 2003 Nobel Prize. While not a lode of critical insight, Makhaya's essay does provide interested readers with an accessible survey of the oft-mentioned South African response to the publication of Coetzee's controversial novel.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

    Works Cited

    Kanaganayakam, Chelva. "The Anxiety of Being Postcolonial: Ideology and the Contemporary Postcolonial Novel." Miscelanea: A Journal of English and American Studies 28 (2003): 43-54.

    Makhaya, Gertrude B. "The Trouble with JM Coetzee." The Oxonian Review of Books 4.2 (2005). Available online.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, July 13, 2008
    Since today has been such a ridiculously long day and especially because I didn't get nearly enough sleep last night, I'm far too tired to write anything worth reading this evening. I will, however, say that I did manage to read a short essay dealing with Disgrace, as I had planned.

    For tomorrow: Read another article or start reading Youth.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, July 11, 2008
    When I woke up this morning and reminded myself that I had planned to read another critical essay on Disgrace, I felt like a petulant child. If I were younger, I would undoubtedly have balled my hands into tiny fists, pounded my feet on the ground and, in a fit of vexation, narrowed my eyes into slits while whining I doan wanna read criticism! I've already read a few dozen articles on the novel!

    Fortunately for me, a friend of mine invited me to hang out tomorrow, thereby giving me a carrot to dangle in front of my mulish self. The minute I had something to look forward to, what had so recently seemed onerous began to appear quite reasonable and I decided to make today as pleasant as I could.

    So I drove to Ithaca, figuring that situating myself among the bohemian bonhomie of southern New York's most famous college town would perk me up. There are times when living among the burned-out warehouses and dilapidated buildings of a plundered industrial corridor really gets to me and I feel an intense urge to flee the area. The longer I sit looking at the peeling paint and shuttered store windows, the longer I walk through the empty downtown streets looking for the elusive tumbleweed that will let me know that I do, in fact, live in the Dust Bowl, the more frustrated I grow.

    Before I moved to Quebec and New York's Southern Tier, I had believed North America was a prosperous region, one in which I was fortunate to reside. Over the past seven years, however, I have seen more poverty, ignorance, and hopelessness than I had come across in the twenty-three previous years combined. My recent trips to Georgia, Florida, South Bend, IN, and Mississippi have done little to convince me that what I see in this region is an unfortunate anomaly. America, my eyes tell me, grew up fast, filled itself with prosperity, and slowly dried up, leaving a landscape pocked by the rotten husks of a once-proud nation.

    Ithaca, for better or worse, has largely resisted this decay. If anything, the city seems to preserve a local flavor that seems a bit anachronistic, but is quite pleasant. I mean, sure, the city is often criticized for its large intellectually leftist, academically elitist population, but the city's population does support its local businesses, cultivates a vivacious arts scene, and proves that a community devoted to environmentally-friendly behaviors can exist. I would rather pay a bit more for rent and a bit more for food if it meant I knew the merchants personally, if it enabled me to walk down a well-kept street lined with used book and record stores.

    Of course, I don't have that much capital at the moment. But I can afford a day trip now and again, which helps keep the funk from smothering me.

    While sitting in the Commons, I managed to read Melinda Harvey's "Re-Educating the Romantic: Sex and the Nature-Poet in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Despite my strong desire not to do any critical reading today, I found Harvey's essay quite worth reading. In fact, she appears to be one of a very few critics who touch on ideas I consider to be central to appreciating Disgrace.

    Although "Disgrace's status as a campus novel is mootable," Harvey argues, its academic setting and "preoccupation with education" and character reformation make a discussion of David Lurie's scholarly life the logical starting point for what amounts to one of the most convincing readings of the novel that I have happened across (94). Bucking the critical tendency to focus on Lurie's fascination with Byron, Harvey views the professor's academic and emotional passion for William Wordsworth and the "willfully narcissistic" attitude of the speaker in The Prelude as keys to understanding the text (98). Like the Wordsworthian traveller who privileges imagination and de-emphasizes the empirical, David Lurie "is egotistically motivated" in his pursuit of passion (100). Thus, the female others -- Soraya, Melanie, et cetera -- amount to little more than objects used to facilitate the attainment of a highly imaginative sexual satisfaction by lending (willingly and unwillingly) their physical bodies to the machinations of Lurie's self-centered fantasies.

    Harvey's most interesting observation, in my opinion, is her assessment of Lucy's role in the novel:
    As David's daughter -- a filial bond that includes love but precludes sex -- Lucy is left with the task of teaching him a thing or two about the problem of the overreaching imagination when it comes to women. (104)
    When Lucy refuses to speak of her rape, David cannot refrain from imagining the scenario and asking himself "does he have it in him to be the woman?" (Coetzee 160). Once Lurie begins to perceive a second, less glamorous side to an "overreaching imagination," his egocentrism begins to crack. Of course, Harvey argues, "Coetzee is too much of a realist to have this sobering self-knowledge change him beyond recognition," so Lurie's change is a small one(106). His fantasies do not abate (he even fantasizes about a menage a tois with Melanie and her sister while visiting Mr. and Mrs. Isaacs in their home in George), but he does begin reigning in his dominating and domineering imagination. In fact, for Harvey, the novel's iconic closing scene amounts to "a final rejection" of Lurie's Wordsworthian roving: by giving up a favored dog, Lurie accepts that "[t]he dog will not exist, live or die, for the sake of his needs" (106).

    For tomorrow: Read a brief article or a bit of Youth.

    Works Cited

    Coetzee, J. M. Disgrace. New York: Penguin, 1999.

    Harvey, Melinda. "Re-Educating the Romantic: Sex and the nature-Poet in Coetzee's Disgrace." Sydney Studies in English 31 (2005): 94-108.

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    ____________________________________________
    Graduate school, as I have mentioned before, often amounts to an exercise in dream deferral, especially for those of us who have not taken more than a year or two off from school since kindergarten. While many of our peers get married, start families, purchase homes and otherwise establish themselves as adults, I find, most of us exist in a strangely purgatorial zone that is neither youth nor adulthood. We are, I suppose, making our way through a protracted adolescence in which both the student's shoestring budget and graying hair seem at home.

    It can get lonely sometimes. It's not always enough to promise oneself that one day things will work out, to spit in the face of doubt and faithfully repeat a personal mantra designed to reassure one of the pleasant life he or she will undoubtably find waiting at the end of the grad school rainbow. Because, after all, there is no guarantee. You might not get a job you like, no matter how hard you try. You might not meet the people that will form the social fabric you need to thrive emotionally and intellectually. You may be left alone with tons of obscure knowledge that makes it difficult for others to understand the way you view the world. And, of course, the "what ifs" come marching in and your doubts mingle with outright panic: what if I never get a job teaching? and what if I never find people with whom I feel a connection? and what if I made the wrong choice and, and, and...

    Of course, the remedy for such malaise can only be to remind yourself that the real reason you're in grad school is for the noble -- if selfish -- pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake, that you've embarked on a journey of self-improvement and self-discovery.

    Except you could do that outside of grad school, for free, with a library card.

    So, at most, that's only a part of it. You're also in grad school because of a dream, a cherished hope for something a bit more concrete than knowledge. You want a good life with a good job and good people with whom to share that existence. No shit, right?

    Today, I felt acutely the schism between what I want and what I have. My best friends live in places like Minnesota and Norway and Mississippi and China and the diasporic nature of most graduate programs inevitably means that friends today are often gone tomorrow. Like I said, it can get lonely.

    Add to that loneliness the solipsistic existence of the library-dwelling scholar and the painfully thin wallet of the average student and you've got a recipe for frustration. Today, I felt tethered. I wanted to run away from the dissertation, but the rope caught and I slammed to the ground like a dog forgetting his lead is only so long.

    Then I remembered that almost everyone feels this way sometimes, grad student or not. So I finished Boyhood and counted my pennies, trying to see if maybe, just maybe I could afford a trip to the Twin Cities.

    For tomorrow: Either read an essay, transcribe, work on the bibliography, or read some of Youth.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, July 10, 2008
    Other than continuing to read Boyhood, I used today to consult with my supervisor regarding some of the less academic aspects of the dissertation process. Like all schools granting doctoral degrees, my university requires each candidate complete a set of procedures designed to ensure that my dissertation committee consists of a strong group of scholars in addition to my advisor, that I submit the proper forms to the proper offices, and other such matters. Happily, these requirements strike me as reasonable and relatively low-stress tasks, so I will be moving forward on that front while I continue working on research and writing. If anything, it adds a bit of variety to the whole thing.

    For tomorrow: finish Boyhood.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, July 9, 2008
    Despite the humidity and mid-July heat we've been having, I spent much of the day running errands that I have been putting off for some time. In between those chores, I squinted through my sweat-stung eyes and read some more of Boyhood.

    For tomorrow: More of the same.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, July 8, 2008
    Despite the ninety-degree (32 Centigrade for my non-North American readers) heat and an air conditioner in need of a new filter, I managed to stay comfortable enough to get some work done, albeit sweatily. I read another bit of Boyhood, which I continue to find fascinating. I've not read many memoirs and, to be honest, some recent "masterpieces" of the form have not gripped me strongly enough for me to share the enthusiasm for the genre that has been blossoming in recent years. That said, I do believe memoirists have the potential to transform their lives into the stuff of universally relevant art and Coetzee, in my opinion, does precisely this with Boyhood.

    Other than reading the memoir, I have been taking it a bit easier than I have for some time, largely because the amount of academic writing I read in June began taking a toll on my ability to concentrate. Having grown accustomed to reading such material, however, I continue to feel a tiny twinge of obligation to pick up an article each day, especially because there are still so many essays to read and only a finite number of summer afternoons and evenings left in which to splay myself out on the futon or sit leisurely at a cafe, highlighter in hand. But we'll get through it all eventually (why I resort to a rhetorical strategy like the royal we is beyond me).

    At any rate, I did want to briefly mention the two essays I read last week but had not gotten around to discussing. Rosemarie Buikema's "Literature and the Production of Ambiguous Memory: Confession and Double Thoughts in Coetzee's Disgrace" falls into what I have begun referring to as the Truth and Reconciliation school of Disgrace criticism. Broadly speaking, there are roughly three major clusters of scholarly discussion surrounding the novel. Naturally, a good deal of the criticism on the novel falls outside the umbrage cast by these umbrella categories but I would venture to say at least half of the commentary on Disgrace could be classified as one of the following three types:
    1. Truth and Reconciliation: criticism in this category tends to focus on Coetzee's treatment of the reconciliation process in post-Apartheid South Africa. It deals extensively with race relations and often views David Lurie's disciplinary hearing as either a metaphor for the TRC itself or as an expression and exploration of the dynamics underlying such attempts at reconciling historically antagonistic parties. Lucy Lurie's attitudes towards Peturus, Pollux, and the two unnamed assailants and David's encounter with Mr. Isaacs in George also figure prominently in such criticism.

    2. Animals and human-animal relations: this school of criticism tends to focus on Lurie's relationship with dogs. Anthropomorphism and de-humanization are often major threads in this type of essay. The Lives of Animals and Elizabeth Costello, understandably, provide a wealth of intertextual insights and critics often discuss Coetzee's use of the figure of the absolute other as evidence of the novel's continuation of the author's career-long concern with issues relating to alterity and representation.

    3. Socio-political criticism: often sharing a concern for issues of interest to Truth and Reconciliation critics, socio-political criticism also focuses on representations of post-Apartheid violence, racism, sexism, and related tensions not exclusively the focus of the TRC. Lucy's rape, Lurie's assault on Melanie, and Petrus's relationship to the Luries tend to be central concerns for such critics. Much of the criticism in this vein, though certainly not all, views Disgrace in a negative manner, as a hopelessly bleak portrayal of the still-nascent Rainbow Nation.
    Obviously, most articles extend beyond the concerns of a given category, quite a few could fall into at least two of them, and many do not fit into any at all. But I do find it helpful to arrange my mental notes in this way.

    At any rate, Buikema's essay fits into the first category and save for a few factual errors (Lurie's assailants do not "pour gasoline on Lurie," as she claims, for instance; the men actually pour mentholated spirits on him), it provides a strong reading of the novel as deceptively and problematically allegorical (192). Readers interested in examining the ways in which literature can help shape and question the production of memory (especially that which has been shaped by officially-sanctioned organizations) will find it indispensable.

    Elleke Boehmer's "Sorry, Sorrier, Sorriest: The Gendering of Contrition in J . M. Coetzee's Disgrace," like many articles, interprets the novel's depiction of violence in South Africa as a bleak portrait of a society in which enduring the manifestation of historically-repressed animosity is the only option for those people unfortunate enough to live during an era "where the present is more often than not a rehearsal and prolongation of the past" (136). Where Boehmer differs from critics similarly convinced of the novel's "grin and bear it" attitude is in her frustration with Coetzee's depiction of female acquiescence. Understandably, Boehmer finds Lucy's attitude towards her rape problematic. After all, Boehmer asks, "[i]s reconciliation with a history of violence possible if the woman . . . is, as ever, barefoot and pregnant, and biting her lip?" (146).

    For tomorrow: Read some more of Boyhood.

    Works Cited

    Boehmer, Elleke. "Sorry, Sorrier, Sorriest: The Gendering of Contrition in J . M. Coetzee's Disgrace." J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual. Athens, Ohio: Ohio UP, 2006. 135-147.

    Buikema, Rosemarie. "Literature and the Production of Ambiguous Memory: Confession and Double Thoughts in Coetzee's Disgrace." European Journal of English Studies 10.2 (2006): 187-197.

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    Monday, July 7, 2008
    Owing to an obligation to grade a rather thick stack of student papers -- a task which has kept me up until the wee hours of the morning -- I haven't the energy to write much today. Fortunately, the papers I have spent the last few hours marking up with my trusty ol' red pen have been largely well-written, leaving me in a good enough mood to at least write this tiny bit of prose before setting of for the Land of Nod.

    I did, of course, continue reading Boyhood.

    For tomorrow: Read another chunk of the book.

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    Sunday, July 6, 2008
    Although I read a good deal of Boyhood this afternoon, I will actually be finishing up my self-assigned reading in bed tonight. I opted to spend the evening with some friends and had a much-needed break from the solipsistic existence I have been leading these past few days. Fortunately, I am enjoying the book, so I don't reckon my fatigue will prevent me from finishing. All I can say is that it has been really nice to have switched back to narrative prose after spending so much time reading academic writing. I find that if I read literary criticism on one specific text exclusively for too long, the articles begin to blend together and I grow frustrated by the often overlapping content of the essays. Taking a break, I've learned, gives one's brain a chance to process and synthesize information, allowing one to digest a good deal of material and sift through the details for those little nuggets of priceless insight. At any rate, it's after two in the morning and I'll have to get cracking on my reading if I want to get to bed at a decent hour. . .

    For tomorrow: Read some more of Boyhood.

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    Saturday, July 5, 2008
    I began reading Boyhood this afternoon and I enjoyed the first few chapters. From what little I have read thus far, I can certainly see why so many critics have found Coetzee's memoirs to be useful resources when working with his fiction. I mean, even though I try not to conflate an author's biographical details with those of his or her fictional creations, it is hard not to notice the striking similarities between, say, father-son relationships in Boyhood and The Master of Petersburg. That many people use the clearly Joycean phrase "a portrait of the artist as a young man" to refer to Coetzee's book, too, strikes me as relevant: the memoir does, in fact, read quite a bit like James Joyce's famous novel. Needless to say, there's a lot going on in the book, much more than I could possibly say at two-thirty in the morning, so I will wrap this up now and sign off for the evening, again promising to discuss the two articles that I haven't yet had the time or energy to cover these past few days.

    For tomorrow: Read more of Boyhood.

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    Friday, July 4, 2008
    As much as I would like to sit down and write a nice, long entry about what I have been reading lately, I will have to put that off for a little while because it is getting a bit too late for me to think clearly enough to write anything worth reading.

    I have also decided that I will take a bit of a break from reading criticism, using the next couple of days to read Boyhood. I find that I get tired of doing any one part of the dissertation for too long, so I like to break up my work so that I can progress a bit more smoothly. Lately, it has been taking me longer to read the criticism I have set aside for myself, so I think I have reached the point at which a break is a wise idea.

    For tomorrow: Read Boyhood.

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    Thursday, July 3, 2008
    Since it's really, really late and I am too tired to write much, I will just report that I opted to read an essay today, which I will discuss tomorrow when I am a bit more alert.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay and/or read a bit of Boyhood.

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    Tuesday, July 1, 2008
    Rita Barnard, in my opinion, is one of the most consistently excellent Coetzee scholars around. Although "Coetzee's Country Ways" does not appear to figure into my discussion of Disgrace, I would like to at least mention the essay because I appreciate the depth of thought and clarity of language in Barnard's article. Part adroit linguistic analysis, part intertextual exploration, "Coetzee's Country Ways" examines the novel's contribution to and commentary on the South African pastoral tradition. Contrasting Disgrace with Life & Times of Michael K and Charles van Onselen's The Seed is Mine, Barnard makes a convincing case for reading Coetzee's novel as the author's "anti-pastoral . . . contribution to a larger discursive and narrative project of re-imaging rural life in South Africa" in the still-nascent post-Apartheid era (393).

    For tomorrow: Largely because I really need a break from reading nothing but literary criticism, I will give myself the option of starting Boyhood if I do not feel like reading another essay tomorrow.

    Work Cited

    Barnard, Rita. "Coetzee's Country Ways." interventions 4.3 (2002): 384-394.

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