Sobriquet Home | Author Index | About Us | Book Reviews | Music Reviews | Email | Punk Encyclopedia | Punk Links | Writers


Dissertation Blog Home
About the Blog
Email & Comment Policy
About the Zine
Record Reviews
Sobriquet on Facebook
Sobriquet on MySpace
Sobriquet on Twitter
Sobriquet on Tumblr


The Chronicle


Cincinnati Bengals
New York Yankees
Cleveland Cavaliers
Montreal Canadiens


New York Times
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Newark Star-Ledger
Chicago Tribune
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Washington Post
Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Chronicle
Christian Science Monitor


Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Powered by Blogger

    eXTReMe Tracker

    RSS Feed Readers

    Sobriquet 43.1

    Monday, June 2, 2008
    Although I initially doubted whether I would find the time and energy to re-read Michiel Heyns "'Call No Man Happy': Perversity as Narrative Principle in Disgrace" today, I did manage to get through the essay. (I love how I make reading a short essay out to be, like, this massive achievement).

    At any rate, the essay is a decent piece of work. It's not exactly mind-blowing and it doesn't break new ground, but Heyns does do an admirable job of succinctly synthesizing some of the major critical preoccupations of his colleagues into a lucid argument. Basically, Heyns begins his paper by dividing the existing scholarship on Disgrace into two broad interpretive camps: that penned by critics concerned with the novel's relationship to contemporary South African politics and that written by folks more interested in analyzing the book "in terms of an intellectual position which is seen to have indirect ethical implications" (57). Insisting that "neither reading does justice to the novel," Heyns suggests that we look to the "predetermined pessimism" of Sophoclean tragedy for clues about how to approach Disgrace (58). Unlike Oedipus, whose destiny has been determined by the gods on Olympus, Heyns tells us, David Lurie seems to have free will. His free will, however, resembles that of Thomas Hardy's Micheal Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge, a man whose free actions precipitate a series of events upon which he has less and less influence, ultimately trapping the man in an almost Oedipal scenario in which free will has been trumped by a fate predetermined by the initial "free" choice. Thus, when Lurie observes Soraya (a prostitute he visits weekly) shopping with her two children, he decides to follow her, a "free" choice that dooms the professor to a series of increasingly disastrous scenarios. To wit:

    1. When Soraya refuses to meet Lurie, he seeks other outlets for his sexual desires.
    2. Unsatisfied with prostitutes and Communications Department secretaries, Lurie seduces a student.
    3. When the student does not seem to welcome his advances, he pursues her anyway.
    4. He sexually assaults the girl.
    5. The girl begins to skip class.
    6. Lurie falsifies his records to "protect" the student from failing.
    7. The girl drops out of school.
    8. The girl presses charges.
    9. Lurie is investigated and his grading irregularities causes trouble.
    10. Lurie refuses to apologize, but acknowledges his actions.
    11. Lurie is dismissed from his job and thrust into disgrace, et cetera.

    As Lurie's descent into disgrace continues, he finds himself with fewer and fewer vocational choices and ends up living in the country, where he has no influence and few allies. Thus condemned to a difficult fate, Lurie must find a way to live. For Heyns, Lurie's situation is the result of an authorial decision to doom the man to perversity so that he (Lurie) will experience an abasement which will allow him to sympathize with suffering animals, thereby learning the value of the sympathetic imagination Elizabeth Costello discusses in The Lives of Animals.

    In other words, Coetzee is a meanie, torturing David Lurie in order to make a point about our ability to endure suffering and the need for us to sympathize with those less fortunate than ourselves.

    For tomorrow: Read another article.

    Work Cited

    Heyns, Michiel. "'Call No Man Happy': Perversity as Narrative Principle in Disgrace." English Studies 45.1 (2002): 57-63.

    Labels: , , , , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar Add to Mixx! Digg!



    William Gaddis
    The Modern Word
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Chuck Palahniuk
    Free Audiobooks


    Ben Weasel
    Ed Kemp
    The Irascible Professor
    Jeremy Hance
    Ielle Palmer
    Literary Chica
    Rex Parker
    Tiffany Roufs
    Pop Sensation
    Lime Plate


    South Park Studios
    Garfield Minus Garfield
    The Onion
    Urban Legends
    Daily Rotten
    Rotten Library
    Six Sentences
    Eric Mattina's Film Reviews


    Arts & Letters Daily
    Stirrings Still


    The Atlantic
    Foreign Affairs
    National Geographic


    National Initiative
    Mike Gravel '08
    Ralph Nader '08

    Academic,  Learning & Educational Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

    Add to Technorati Favorites

    Add to Google

    Site Visits:
    This site was built by modifying a template designed by Maystar Designs. All text, unless otherwise noted, is copyright 2001-2009 by Sobriquet Magazine (ISSN 1930-1820). © 2009 Sobriquet Magazine. All rights reserved. Sobriquet Magazine and the Sobriquet Magazine logo are registered trademarks of Sobriquet Magazine.