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    Sobriquet 47.31

    Friday, October 31, 2008
    Technically, it's Hallowe'en . . and I'm still not quite done reading the criticism on Disgrace that I'd hoped to have finished by the end of August . . . The good news is that I only have three more essays to read before I can begin the long prewriting phase of this chapter. Three! Seriously, I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to see an end to this long process. Honestly, I never thought I'd be spending anywhere near as much time as I have reading criticism on a novel published less than a decade ago.

    Anyway, today's reading was a brief discussion of two recent books by Derek Attridge, one of which deals with Coetzee. Although there is relatively little in the review to interest Coetzee scholars, Christine Boheemen-Saaf does do a nice job of establishing the importance of Derek Attridge's body of criticism (including his work on Coetzee) to students of contemporary global literature.

    For tomorrow: Read or prewrite.

    Work Cited

    Boheemen-Saaf, Christine. "After Effects." James Joyce Broadsheet 75 (2006): 1.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, October 30, 2008
    Today was a procrastination day. In fact, I did not get any reading done until close to midnight, so I am kind of annoyed with myself at the moment. But I did get through another essay.

    For tomorrow: Read or prewrite.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, October 28, 2008
    I'm sure this is beginning to read like the transcription of a broken record, but I am going to have to keep this entry brief. It's been another one of those extremely long days that I've mentioned a few dozen times and, while it's only a few minutes past eleven, I'm pretty much wiped out. I will read a bit more of The Rights of Desire before bed and, if things go well tomorrow, I should be able to read one of the last three critical essays I have to read. It's kind of anti-climactic, though, because I'd initially thought I would have finished this segment no later than early September. Now, I'm beyond the point where I'm excited about finally finishing the reading because I will still have to spend a long time arranging my notes before I can even begin writing the chapter. Ugh, I say!

    For tomorrow: Try to read another essay.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, October 27, 2008
    Well, it's been a busy day. It's not always been easy for me to balance my own work, preparations for my classes, exercise, and chores. Often, I end up emphasizing one quite a bit more than the others. I did a fairly effective job of balancing stuff today, though, reading a good chunk of material for lectures this week while remembering to get out and hoof it for a few miles. And I will read a bit more of The Rights of Desire before officially calling it a night.

    The problem, of course, is that my laundry and dishes have piled up a bit higher than I would have liked . . .

    For tomorrow: Read or prewrite.

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    ____________________________________________
    As far as Sundays go, today was a fairly decent one (ignoring for the moment the Bengals' rather abysmal performance). I did get some reading done for the dissertation, finally cracking open my copy of Coetzee's White Writing and reading his essay on the Farm Novel and Plaasroman. Though I would like to write a bit more than this, it's nearing one in the morning and I'm hoping to read a bit of a novel I'm preparing to teach this week before bed, so I am going to call it a night and sign off.

    For tomorrow: More of the same.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, October 26, 2008
    Today felt like a lazy Saturday. I mean, I napped twice, played punk songs (poorly) on my bass for a while, took a nice, long walk, and even watched a bit of television. I also chatted on the phone for over an hour. Oh, and I bought the most recent Gaslight Anthem album, The '59 Sound, to which I listened several times over.

    Still, though, I got a pretty sizable chunk of reading done today. Admittedly, Alas, Babylon is an enjoyable book to read, but it is still technically work since I'll be teaching it all this week.

    On the dissertation front, I've opted to stick with Brink's The Rights of Desire, which may very well figure into the chapter on Disgrace. Having never read Brink before, I have to say that my first impression of the author is extremely positive. Brink is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, one whose fiction is undeniably worthy of the global attention he has earned.

    For tomorrow: Same as today.

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    Saturday, October 25, 2008
    It's been another extremely long day (but a good 'un), so I will keep this entry brief. After all, I still have to read some of The Rights of Desire before bed...

    For tomorrow: More of the same.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, October 24, 2008
    Although it's only 12:20 in the morning, I'm pretty zonked, so I'm just going to say that I'll be reading a few pages of The Rights of Desire and hitting the hay.

    For tomorrow: Read an essay, read a bit more of Brink's novel or do some prewriting.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, October 23, 2008
    I had the rather odd -- though thoroughly pleasing -- experience of reading my own published essay on Disgrace this evening. Now, this is not always a pleasant activity. We do well to remember Thomas Pynchon's apt reflections on rereading his early fiction in the introduction to Slow Learner: revisiting "anything you wrote [in the past], even cancelled checks" can be a major "blow to the ego" (3).

    Fortunately, I found that I continue to agree with my earlier assessment of the book. What I wrote then strikes me now, even after having read virtually every published essay on the novel, as a strong, reasonable reading of Disgrace. So I was mercifully spared a major blow to my ego. Of course, I'd be a very poor critic (which is not to imply that I am, in fact, a good one) if I did not find flaws in my earlier work. And I did. I think I may have been a bit too generous in my assessment of David Lurie at times. For instance, I have to place myself among the many critics who have referred to Lurie's dubious relationship with Melanie Isaacs as "an affair" rather than a sexual assault.

    Overall, though, I find that the essay remains a firm articulation of my initial reading of the novel and accurately reflects my current understanding of Disgrace. Naturally, with time, my interpretation of the book has become fuller and more nuanced, but fundamentally my interpretation has not altered a great deal. I continue to view Disgrace as a portrait of David Lurie's existential maturation and I think the essay does a fine job of expressing this belief. But there is more to be said.

    For tomorrow: Same as today.

    Works Cited

    Grayson, Erik. "'A Moderated Bliss': J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace as Existential Maturation." J. M. Coetzee: Critical Perspectives, ed. by Kailash Baral. New Delhi: Pencraft, 2008. 161-169.

    Pynchon, Thomas. Slow Learner: Early Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 1985.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, October 22, 2008
    I'll have to keep tonight's entry brief. It's late; it's been an exceedingly long day and I am tired. I struggled to fall asleep last night so, despite having the opportunity to listen to the first fifth of Herman Hesse's Demian, the latest on my "Audiobooks to Play in the Dark When I Can't Sleep" list (having finished listening to Paul Auster's excellent Man in the Dark last week), I awoke this morning with a bit more grumpiness than usual. That said, it was not a bad day by any stretch of the imagination, the grumpiness dissipating rather quickly. But it was a busy, fatiguing day nonetheless.

    As far as dissertation work goes, I reviewed Richard Brock's "Putting the Soul in Order," another of the essays in the Stirrings Still issue devoted entirely to Coetzee. Brock's text only briefly touches upon Disgrace in what amounts to an oeuvre-encompassing study of the "purgatorial" spaces in Coetzee's fiction. Brock's reading of Disgrace is consistent with a significant strain of Coetzee criticism, namely that which views bodily suffering as the means of achieving a metaphysical understanding of the human (and, perhaps, non-human animal) condition. Furthermore, Brock writes extremely readable prose, making a complex topic both accessible and comprehendible.

    For tomorrow: Same as the past couple of days.

    Work Cited

    Brock, Richard. "Putting the Soul in Order: Purgatorial Spaces and the Role of the Writer in the Novels of J.M. Coetzee" Stirrings Still: The International Journal of Existential Literature 3.1 (2006): 110-127.

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    Monday, October 20, 2008
    I received one of the essays I requested via interlibrary loan this afternoon: Mary Leontsini and Jean-Marc Leveratto's "Online Reading Practices and Reading Pleasure in a Transnational Context: The Reception of Coetzee's Disgrace on Amazon Sites." The essay, a chapter from The Global Literary Field, is a well-written and interesting article that offers relatively little to the Coetzee scholar. As the title implies, the essay focuses on the ways in which the reception of Coetzee's novel by Canadian, American, British, and French audiences reflects the differences in reading practices around the globe.

    Over the past few weeks, I skipped over a few of the essays I read, feeling too tired or too pressed for time to discuss them on the website. Although I cannot give them the attention they deserve, I would like to at least mention them.

    Among the essays in the as-yet unmentioned bunch, two essays by Mike Marais --"Race, Reading, and Tolerance in Three Postapartheid Novels" and "J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace and the Task of the Imagination" -- stand out as particularly strong contributions to Coetzee studies. In the former essay, Marais touches upon the pastoral elements in Disgrace as well as the significance of Lurie's "misreading" of his daughter, two extremely important foci in the commentary surrounding the novel. The second essay is, in many ways, a companion to the former. In it, Marais devotes more attention to Lurie's ultimate inability to apprehend and process Lucy's supreme alterity. Together, these two 2006 essays are essential texts for any serious student of Disgrace.

    I also read Ina Grabe's interesting "Theory and Technology in Contemporary South African Writing," an essay discussing Zakes Mda's The Heart of Redness and Andre Brink's The Rights of Desire in addition to Coetzee's novel. Although her analysis of Disgrace is comparatively brief, Grabe's observations about the "leveling process" David Lurie undergoes over the course of the novel is well worth reading.

    Finally, I would like to mention Wendy Woodward's excellent "Dog Stars and Dog Souls: The Lives of Animals in Triomf by Marlene van Niekerk and Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee." Although human-animal relations in Disgrace has long been one of the most frequently debated themes among critics working on the novel, Woodward's essay is easily one of the most comprehensive and vital contributions to the discussion. Of especial significance is the depth of the spiritual discourse Woodward brings to her discussion. Moving beyond the superficial questions of whether or not animals have souls, Woodward looks at the ways in which animals "teach us about impermanence, suffering and death" (113).

    For tomorrow: Same as today.

    Works Cited

    Grabe, Ina. "Theory and Technology in Contemporary South African Writing: From Self-Conscious Exploration to Contextual Appropriation." In Cybernetic Ghosts: Literature in the Age of Theory and Technology, ed. by Dorothy Matilda Figueira. Provo, UT: Brigham Young UP, 2004. 203-12.

    Leontsini, Mary and Jean-Marc Leveratto. "Online Reading Practices and Reading Pleasure in a Transnational Context: The Reception of Coetzee's Disgrace on Amazon Sites." In The Global Literary Field, ed. by Anna Guttman, Michel Hockx and George Paizis. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006. 165-180.

    Marais, Mike. "J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace and the Task of the Imagination." Journal of Modern Literature 29.2 (2006): 75-93.

    ---. "Race, Reading, and Tolerance in Three Postapartheid Novels." In The Responsible Critic: Essays on African Literature in Honor of Professor Ben Obumselu, ed by Isidore Diala. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2006. 253-270.

    Woodward, Wendy. "Dog Stars and Dog Souls: The Lives of Dogs in Triomf by Marlene van Niekerk and Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee." Journal of Literary Studies / Tydskrif vir literatuurwetenskap 17.3-4 (2001): 90-119.

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    ____________________________________________
    Since I decided to use today to catch up on some non-dissertation work, I'll just be reading a bit more of The Rights of Desire before going to bed. The anxiety of having so much to do really made reading criticism difficult, so it'll be a nice evening with Professor Brink instead.

    For tomorrow: Same as today.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, October 18, 2008
    Although I have a few essays still on order through interlibrary loan, my pile of unread photocopied essays is no longer a pile. True, I have a few book chapters to read, but the endless pile is, for the first time since the spring, empty. Oh, the faux wood grain of my desk is as beautiful to me now as the face of a long-absent lover come home again!

    The article I read this afternoon, Matt DelConte's "A Further Study of Present Tense Narration: The Absentee Narratee and Four-Wall Present Tense in Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace," offers relatively little to the Coetzee scholar. If anything, DelConte uses Coetzee's fiction (which, despite the title, the author does not mention until halfway through the essay) to illustrate the concepts of the "absentee narratee" and "four-wall narration" he has coined for the purposes of his discussion. To be honest, I found the vast majority of the discussion to be an exercise in explaining the obvious, though there were several points in the essay where DelConte makes some thoughtful observations about Coetzee.

    Among the other essays I have read recently, neither Liv Lundberg's "Mesteren fra Cape Town" nor Mary Eagleton's "Ethical Reading: The Problem of Alice Walker's 'Advancing Luna - and Ida B. Wells' and J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace'" added a great deal to my understanding of the novel, though both are quite well-written and interesting. Lundeberg's essay is a wonderful piece of Norwegian literary criticism: part introductory survey, part intellectual memoir. Given the relative dearth of Norwegian-language criticism on Coetzee, "Mesteren" is an important step in ensuring Coetzee's place in that country's literary discourse. Eagleton's essay, on the other hand, is an intensely focused study of the trauma of rape as depicted in the two works mentioned in the article's title. With its theory-informed close reading of the two texts, "Ethical Reading" treats such topics as Lucy's willful silence following her rape with great insight.

    Yesterday, I read Laura Wright's "'Does He Have it in Him to be the Woman?': The Performance of Displacement in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Dr. Wright, in my estimation, is one of the most readable critics working on Coetzee. Although the essay is relatively brief, Wright manages to survey much of the pre-existing critical discourse on Coetzee's novel, extract the most vital themes (animal alterity, the creative process, trauma, the sympathetic imagination, the burden of history, etc.) and weave together a wholly coherent reading of the book as a performative text in which the unknowability of the other is central, ultimately concluding that:
    While one can never be the other, on an ethical level, one must continue to attempt to imagine the subjectivity of that which one is not, and, more importantly, one must continue to respect the alterity of that which cannot be imagined. (100)
    For tomorrow: Read another essay, work on transcription, read a bit of The Rights of Desire, or work on the bibliography.

    Works Cited

    DelConte, Matt. "A Further Study of Present Tense Narration: The Absentee Narratee and Four-Wall Present Tense in Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace." JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 37.3 (2007): 427-446.

    Eagleton, Mary. "Ethical Reading: The Problem of Alice Walker's 'Advancing Luna - and Ida B. Wells' and J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace.'" Feminist Theory 2 (2001): 189-203.

    Lundberg, Liv. "Mesteren fra Cape Town." NordLit 14 (2003): 109-125.

    Wright, Laura. "'Does He Have it in Him to be the Woman?': The Performance of Displacement in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." ARIEL 37.4 (2006): 83-102.

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    ____________________________________________
    Although I assumed that I would be too sleepy to read much more than a few pages of a novel yesterday evening, I decided to at least make an effort to do something more -- and ended up reading Kari Weil's "Killing Them Softly: Animal Death, Linguistic Disability, and the Struggle for Ethics" in addition to a bit of The Rights of Desire. Weil's essay, like quite a few others, views David Lurie's relationship with animals as central to an understanding of Disgrace. Although there is a good deal more to the paper, I find Weil's use of autistic-animal relations as a key to opening a discussion of pre-verbal empathy between humans and non-humans to be one of the more fascinating things I have read lately. If anything, this short article proves that, as heavily discussed a novel as Disgrace happens to be, there is plenty of room for further critical debate.

    As for today, I still have another four pages of criticism to read before bed, so I am going to sign off for the evening/early morning.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

    Work Cited

    Weil, Kari. "Killing Them Softly: Animal Death, Linguistic Disability, and the Struggle for Ethics." Configurations 14 (2006): 87-96.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, October 17, 2008
    As one o'clock fast approaches, I find I haven't the energy to write much. Fortunately, I haven't a whole lot to say tonight, having spent the vast majority of the day teaching and discussing essay topics with my students. Pleasingly, several of my students have decided to write essays about Disgrace and, from what I have seen of their writing thus far, they have quite a few interesting things to say about the novel. And I say this after having read more than one hundred critical essays on the book. There's no better feeling for a teacher than to experience the joy of being taught by one's students, so I am in uncommonly good spirits this evening.

    That said, I did not read any additional criticism today. Since I just checked the MLA bibliography and found (mercifully only) a few additional essays, I should be able to finish reading all the criticism I have been able to locate within the next few days. Obviously, Disgrace has spawned a prolific critical cottage industry and articles will continue appearing as I move forward in my studies. Still, in addition to having read every bit of scholarship on Disgrace available in the university libraries within 50 miles of my home, I have gotten ahold of every bit of critical writing available to me via InterLibrary loan, internet searching, and electronic database scouring, so there really isn't much more I can read. A recent email discussion with some colleagues in South Africa suggests several articles exist that have not yet made their way into the databases to which I have access, but that, too, is out of my control. Ergo, having exhausted my supply of critical reading, I will be starting the pre-writing phase of the Disgrace chapter soon. Mind you, I am not complaining. If anything, I am looking forward to the change of pace. I'm sure I will begin hating the writing process soon enough but, for now, I welcome the novelty of penning another chapter. Seriously, I have read so much criticism and I have spent so much time reviewing the interpretations of others that I feel somewhat estranged from Coetzee's text and my original conception of the chapter-to-be. It'll be nice to get back to fleshing out my own reading of the novel, especially now that I have been informed by such a wide variety of interpretations.

    That said, today's "work" is yet another bedtime reading of Brink's The Rights of Desire.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, October 16, 2008
    Well, it has been another long day, though not one I can complain about at all. I had a wonderful afternoon, a good supper, and a fine time watching South Park. On the dissertation front, I read a bit of an essay today, but I did not really get into an academic groove, so my real work will be reading another chunk of The Rights of Desire before bed.

    For tomorrow: Same as today and yesterday.

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    Wednesday, October 15, 2008
    Since I did not leave campus until after ten this evening, I haven't had a whole lot of time to work on the dissertation. Since I was so tired, I decided not to force myself to read any criticism, figuring fatigue would prevent me from focusing. Instead, I finally began reading Andre Brink's The Rights of Desire. Although I do not anticipate devoting much space to the novel in a dissertation focused on J. M. Coetzee, I want to at least familiarize myself with a work many scholars have discussed in relation to Disgrace. Whether or not Brink will figure into my project remains to be seen, but I can definitely see how comparing the two books could yield significant insight into either individual text. Indeed, the reclusively bookish Reuben Oliver bears more than a passing resemblance to the equally standoffish scholar at the center of Coetzee's novel.

    For tomorrow: Read, transcribe, work on the bibliography, or read a bit more of The Rights of Desire.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, October 14, 2008
    Well, it's been another long day today. It took me until a quarter past two in the morning to finish everything that I'd set out for myself, but I managed to get through another critical essay, read a solid sixty pages in preparation for one of my classes, and get some exercise. The only thing I haven't the time for is writing a longer entry tonight... I will, however, be finished with the endless pile of criticism within a few days, at which point I will probably have a bit more time to write about the whole process. Finally.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay, read a bit of The Rights of Desire, work on transcription, or work on the bibliography.

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    Monday, October 13, 2008
    There's a distinct possibility that I have been bitten by a tsetse fly. I say this because, without human African trypanosomiasis as a scapegoat, there's no reason I should have slept as much as I did today. Lacking an epidemiological explanation, all I can say is that I overslept. A lot. I mean, I woke up fairly late, having slept soundly all night. I even got out of bed and prepared breakfast. I ate lunch, too. And watched the New York Jets beat up my lowly Cincinnati Bengals. But then, as I began thinking about working on the dissertation, a little voice in my head began listing the virtues of the siesta for me. The list must have been long because, before it ended, I was fast asleep.

    So, having only had a few hours of late evening and early morning at my disposal, I have not yet completed my reading for today. I will, however, finish it before bed and try to discuss it a bit one the next few days (along with the pile of essays I still haven't gotten around to mentioning).

    For tomorrow: For the hundred-and-somethingth time, read another essay.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, October 12, 2008
    I did not enjoy today. I mean, it was a beautiful, cloudless autumn afternoon and the temperature was moderate enough to make wearing a sweatshirt as comfortable as wearing a tee-shirt. The yellows, reds, and oranges blotching the mountainsides made for a spectacular view in every direction. Birds chirruped and neighbors made pleasant small talk. The light breeze was delightful. And yet, I still managed to ruin it for myself.

    At some point during the day I began reflecting on graduate school, something that rarely results in a sense of self-satisfaction, to say the least. Once the math (the number of doctoral students entering the job market, the growing percentage of non-tenured positions, graduate school rankings, the percentage of Ph.D.s with whom I am acquainted finding tenure-track jobs, the number of publications I have had, and so on) began swirling in my mind, my mood plummeted. In Looney Toons-style, I would go from frolicking around the bucolic splendor of a crisp autumn day to getting smacked squarely in the jaw with some exceedingly heavy Acme brand product. The sound of a record scratching would bring the Peer Gynt Suite to which I had so gaily been frolicking to an abrupt halt just in time to segue into a Maurice Ravel's "Prelude a la Nuit: Rhapsodie Espagnole." Clouds would then darken the skies, the wind would pick up, a desolate-sounding dog would howl mournfully in the distance, and a few heavy drops of cold rainwater would dampen my face as I trudged home.

    Seriously, thinking about graduate school can be mind poison, no matter the institution one attends. That hyper-competitive job market just doesn't bode well for many of us. I mean, second-tier students tend to worry about the relative value of their credentials while top-tier students now have to wrestle with the fact that employers are increasingly skeptical about hiring them now, too (so sayeth a New York Times article the LiteraryChica sent my way a while back) because of the sort of hyper-specialization encouraged by many departments.

    Still, despite the weight of the worry (and it was substantial), I brushed the fears away, tamped down the self-doubts as best I could, and read what turned out to be one of the better essays I have come across while working on Disgrace.

    John Douthwaite's "Melanie: Voice and its Suppression in J M Coetzee's Disgrace" picks up quite literally where "Coetzee's Disgrace: A Linguistic Analysis of the Opening Chapter" leaves off. Focusing on chapters two through four, Douthwaite applies the same rigorous linguistic analysis to the Melanie-centered section of Disgrace as he does to the first chapter. The result of Dothwaite's work, not surprisingly, is a stunningly revealing close reading highlighting, among other things, the role of the void in Coetzee's novel as well as the linguistic activities David Lurie employs in a vain attempt at filling it. What I found most compelling in the essay, however, is Douthwaite's rather novel reading of the novel as presenting the free direct thought of Lurie (as opposed to the almost-universally accepted critical assessment of the book as having been written in an overtly free indirect mode). Given that J. M. Coetzee delivered the Tanner Lectures by reading an account of Elizabeth Costello, penned two autobiographical works in the third-person, and accepted his Nobel Prize by reading a narrative centered on Daniel Dafoe, the possibility Lurie is the "author" rather than simple focalizer of Disgrace is a compelling and thought-provoking approach to the novel, indeed. In making his case, Douthwaite nudges open several hitherto unseen (and potentially enlightening) avenues for scholarly discourse. Normally, I do not enjoy linguistic analysis, but Douthwaite is a superior scholar with a genuine gift for literary criticism, making his two essays essential reading for anyone working with Coetzee's text.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

    Work Cited

    Douthwaite, John. "Melanie: Voice and its Suppression in J M Coetzee's Disgrace." Current Writing 13.1 (2001): 130-161.

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    Saturday, October 11, 2008
    I'm going to try to play catch-up a bit today and discuss a few of the articles that I haven't yet mentioned.

    Over the course of the past three days, I read two essays -- Gerald Gaylard's "Disgraceful Metafiction: Intertextuality in the Postcolony" and Margot Beard's Lessons from the Dead Masters: Wordsworth and Byron in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace -- dealing with the ways in which Coetzee draws upon British Romanticism to layer, enrich, and nuance his novel. Of the two, I personally found Beard's reading to be a bit more useful for my own purposes, but Gaylard's essay is an equally strong contribution to the body of criticism surrounding Disgrace. Although Gaylard does not limit his exploration of intertextuality to Coetzee's engagement with the Romantic period, he does devote the strongest sections of his essay to its prominent place in the novel. Beard, on the other hand, uses the professional specialization in the Romantic poets she shares with David Lurie to highlight, among other things, the city-country, pastoral-urban, and simple-sophisticated binaries Coetzee invokes through David Lurie's fascination with "masters" such as the rakish Lord Byron and the almost willfully quaint William Wordsworth. Her strongest observations come when Beard addresses the critical misreadings of pastoralism in several previous studies of he novel.

    I also read Neville Smith's "Difference and J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace," an attempt to place Coetzee's novel among a growing body of fiction commenting upon the ways in which cultural and social prejudices have displaced biologically-motivated bigotry as a means of enforcing difference and maintaining positions of power over others. Smith does a wonderful job of making his case, though the essay does seem to make the same point ad infinitum. Smith also devotes a good amount of time to a survey of the critical response to Disgrace, situating his reading squarely in the center of many scholarly discussions of Coetzee's text.

    For today: see previous post.

    Works Cited

    Beard, Margot. "Lessons From the Dead Masters: Wordsworth and Byron in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." English in Africa 34.1 (2007): 59-77.

    Gaylard, Gerald. "Disgraceful Metafiction: Intertextuality in the Postcolony." Journal of Literary Studies 21.3-4 (2005): 315-337.

    Smith, Neville. "Difference and J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Journal of Literary Studies 23.2 (2007): 200-216.

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    Ugh. It's about four in the morning and I still have a page or so of reading to do before bed, so I will have to post yet another brief, content-less entry. . .

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

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    Thursday, October 9, 2008
    For the second straight day, I managed to read a critical article. Unlike yesterday, however, I finished relatively early in the evening, making it possible for me to enjoy a stroll through town without the weight of unfinished work to drag me down.

    Again, it is late, so I won't discuss the essays I read right now. But I will.

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    Today's been another of those days where I wake up relatively early, feel extremely tired from the long hours I'd worked the day before, decide to sleep off the clinging fatigue, wake up with the intention to read the day's article before evening, begin reading the article, and find I am unable to focus.

    Oh, I've read about half the essay for the day, but it's past one in the morning and I am going to have to use it as bedtime reading, putting off completing A Canticle for Liebowitz or Man in the Dark for another night, dagnabit. I'll finish it, though.

    For tomorrow: More of the same.

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    Wednesday, October 8, 2008
    Well, it's been a busy few days for me. Between grading several classes worth of student essays, reading a significant chunk of A Canticle for Liebowitz for another one of my classes, and teaching for more than nine hours a day, I haven't had a whole lot of time to devote to working on my dissertation, but I did read a few brief reviews, figuring reading something small each day would be better than not reading anything.

    Of the reviews I've read these past couple of days, I found Peter Ho Davies's "Truth and Consequences - J.M. Coetzee's Rigerous Tale of Guilt and Regret in South Africa," from the Chicago Tribune, to be the most interesting. In his reading of Disgrace, Davies asserts that David Lurie's "disgrace began much earlier than the public humiliation of the denounced affair" between the academic and Melanie Isaacs. By locating the beginning of Lurie's downfall prior to the opening of the novel, Davies suggests that the professor's disgrace is not, as quite a few reviewers have asserted, the result of an act of foolish Romantic bravado, but rather evidence that Lurie has, in fact, been complicit in "the long history of exploitation" to which Farodia Rassool refers during the university disciplinary meeting (Coetzee 53).

    One of the stranger readings of Disgrace that I have come across is that of Mark Shechner, who describes Melanie as "the usual coed fatale," depicting the young woman as a "predator" preying on Lurie. Otherwise, the reviews I read are fairly standard interpretations of the novel. Oscar C. Villalon, for instance, reads Lurie's development in the novel from a self-centered academic to a (somewhat) compassionate veterinarian's assistant as suggestive of South Africa's potential to heal after apartheid while Elizabeth Gleick and Bob Hoover interpret the book as painfully bleak and unremittingly hopeless in its depiction of the nascent post-apartheid state.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay or read a bit of The Rights of Desire.

    Works Cited

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

    Davies, Peter Ho. "Truth and Consequences - J.M. Coetzee's Rigorous Tale of Guilt and Regret in South Africa." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. Chicago Tribune 28 Nov. 1999. 3.

    Gleick, Elizabeth. "Cries of the Displaced - A Bleak but Brilliant Novel of South Africa." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. Time 29 Nov. 1999. 82.

    Hoover, Bob. Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 7 Nov. 1999. Available online.

    Shechner, Mark. "Post-Apartheid Trauma Sidetracked." The Buffalo News. Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. 28 Nov. 1999. F6+.

    Villalon, Oscar C. "Hard Truths in a New South Africa." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. San Francisco Chronicle 28 Nov. 1999. Available online.

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    Monday, October 6, 2008
    Today has been an exceedingly long day for me and, though it's only 10:30, I am already wiped out. I did read another review of Disgrace and, fortunately, it had a few genuinely thought-provoking bits.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

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    I'm going to keep this post short. Today has been a fairly productive day, but I still have loads of non-dissertation work that needs to be taken care of before I head to bed. So, with that in mind, I will just say I read an excellent review of Disgrace and I will try to address it one day soon.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

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    Sunday, October 5, 2008
    As a result of staying up so late yesterday night, I've been sleepy all day even though I slept much later than I had hoped to do. I did, however, get through another article this evening, bringing me a tiny step closer to finishing what has been an incredibly draining undertaking. As much as I love Disgrace and as interested as I am in the interpretive possibilities the novel offers, I simply cannot wait to be finished reading the criticism. Lately, I have been spending whole afternoons struggling to get through an essay. I mean, I'll read a page, get up, check email, return to the text, read two lines of the article, get up again, take a walk or a drive, find a nice place to read, read a tiny bit, get bored, get up, find a new place, and repeat. It sucks. And it's not that the criticism is lousy. I just hate reading the same things over and over. After a while, one grows numb and his or her eye's begin to wander and it's harder to absorb information.

    But this, too, is something I must accept as part of the dissertation.

    And so I do.

    But I grumble, too. I occasionally grit my teeth as well. And once, in a particularly weak moment, I beat my breast and shouted lamentations to the heavens. Then again, I may have read that somewhere.

    As far as what I have been reading, today I read Rachel McCoppin's "Existential Endurance: Resolution from Accepting the 'Other' in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace," from the special Stirrings Still issue devoted entirely to Coetzee. In it, McCoppin bypasses the critical tendency to turn towards Emmanuel Levinas's conception of the other, back to the Sartrean understanding of the concept and towards Nietzsche for an understanding of the formation of David Lurie's personal ethical system in the novel. What McCoppin does most effectively is reveal just how much the poststructuralists are indebted to the existentialists they are so often said to have superseded, especially in terms of the concept of the Other. Much of her reasoning does, however, proceed along the same general lines as many other readings of the novel: Lurie's encounters with the Other -- be they with his daughter (one of McCoppin's more inspired interpretations), the three assailants, or non-human animals -- force him to recognize the ultimate value of the Other, the necessity of relinquishing the drive to dominate that which he cannot control, and the small blessings brought about by the assumption of a humility hitherto absent from his existence. In a similar -- though explicitly Levinasian -- vein, Michael Marais concludes that the humbling "responsibility [for the Other] is an effect of [Lurie]'s loss of control over that which [he] thought [he] could control" (18). Unlike McCoppin's essay, which emphasizes Lurie's conscious decision to become a better person, Marais's text -- "Impossible Possibilities: Ethics and Choice in J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals and Disgrace" -- suggests that "[a]lthough he becomes a better person in the course of the novel, he does not do so of his own volition" (10). Indeed, in learning to love despite himself, Lurie joins the ranks of the doctor in Life & Times of Michael K, Elizabeth Curren in Age of Iron, and Dostoevsky in The Master of Petersburg by loving the unloveable and/or unknowable: K., John, and Sergei Nechaev, respectively.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

    Works Cited

    Marais, Michael. "Impossible Possibilities: Ethics and Choice in J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals and Disgrace." The English Academy Review 18.1 (2001): 1-20.

    McCoppin, Rachel. "Existential Endurance: Resolution from Accepting the 'Other' in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Stirrings Still: The International Journal of Existential Literature 3.1 (2006): 71-81.

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    Saturday, October 4, 2008
    Well, I fucked up today. I had the whole day off: no obligations, no errands, nothing. And guess what I did? Nothing. I couldn't focus on anything and so now, at three-thirty in the morning, I have to buckle down and read a brief essay before bed.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay. And do it before three-thirty in the damn morning!

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    Thursday, October 2, 2008
    It's been another exceedingly long day, chock full o' mentally- and physically-draining work, so I am satisfied to have even read the brief review of Disgrace that I read this evening. Hopefully, with the approach of the weekend -- and with it, plenty of time to catch up on sleep -- I will be able to plough my way through the handful of longer articles standing between me and the as-yet unwritten chapter. I am just hoping to start writing the chapter soon. It's been a few months since I last wrote anything and, after having read so much criticism, I feel somewhat distanced from the text. Oddly, though, I also feel much more intimate with the text. This is, of course, the result of having read so much criticism. While I often complain about the way all these essays I have been reading overlap and repeat one another, I do feel enriched intellectually. Out of the hodge-podge emerges a clearer sense of what the text presents, but rarely from any one article do I feel especially enlightened. It is the cumulative effect of the reading. The whole, it would seem, is far more than the sum of its parts.

    For tomorrow: Read another article.

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    Wednesday, October 1, 2008
    Since it is getting and I still have quite a bit of work I need to complete before hitting the hay, I will just say that I read another essay on Disgrace and that I will write about it and several others I have not had the time to discuss in a day or two.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

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