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    Sobriquet 47.11

    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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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, February 2, 2008
    Having gone to bed somewhat later than I would have liked yesterday night, I woke up at six this morning with the sort of displaced resentment only possible when you blame a work schedule you willingly accepted for your own poor time management. Hearing the grains of ice tinkle against my window reminded me to check if we'd gotten a snow day, but there was nothing listed on the college's website. Disappointed, I putzed around for the next hour or so, checking email and reading news stories. As 7:20--the absolute latest time I feel comfortable leaving the house for work--neared, I sought something, anything to procrastinate just a tiny bit more. So I checked the college's website a second time.

    And lo and behold, there it was, in red letters: no school.

    I got myself a snow day!

    And this was the best possible day for a snow day, too. Mid-week snow days are nice surprises, but lack the added oomph of a weekend-extending snow day. Mondays are nice to have off, but those Monday-extended weekends never feel long because you only find out that you're off after you've already spent all day Sunday believing that you have work or go to school the next day...but Fridays...the moment you learn that you're off on Friday, you have a three-day weekend ahead of you.

    Mighty pleased, I was. This little bit of frozen serendipity made it possible for me to get a few more hours of sleep so that I could write a bit more of the dissertation in addition to reading the article I'd assigned myself for the day. Again, I can't say I am terribly pleased with the quality of my dissertation...I seem to have some weird, unrealistic and unreachable ideal in mind for it...but I am pleased that I have written as much as I have. If my supervisor approves of it, even with a few suggestions, I think I will be quite satisfied.

    At any rate, I read Rachel Lawlan's "The Master of Petersburg: Confession and Double Thoughts in Coetzee and Dostoyevsky," an essay examining, among other things, literature as a counterhistorical narrative, aspects of confessional literature, and the intertextual relationship Coetzee cultivates with Dostoyevsky. Over the past few days, I also read Stephen Watson's "The Writer and the Devil: J.M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg," Gerald Gaylard's "Mastering Arachnophobia: The Limits of Self-Reflexivity in African Fiction," and T. Kai Norris Easton's "Text and Hinterland: J. M. Coetzee and the South African Novel." As is common with many Coetzee scholars, both Easton and Gaylard evaluate The Master of Petersburg as in relation to specifically (South) African fiction while Watson and Lawlan look more closely at the themes of authorship in the novel.

    Without dwelling too much on any one essay that I have read, I have to say I am both disappointed by the extreme lengths to which some critics go to include a political discussion in every Coetzee novel as well as pleased to see the variety of reasonable readings of The Master of Petersburg, especially those which, like Watson's, provide extended considerations of the act of writing.

    With my free time, I watched Population 436, a wholly mediocre "thriller" featuring a surprisingly competent Fred Durst in one of the lead roles. Although I appreciate the unhappy ending of the film, I wasn't terribly engrossed by how the movie takes an idea that is only marginally interesting and, with a sub-stellar cast and average writing, makes a moderately entertaining, ultimately forgettable "thriller" about a town of religious fanatics. But, hey, free time is free time, innit?

    For tomorrow: Read another essay or write a bit more.

    Works Cited

    Gaylard, Gerald. "Mastering Arachnophobia: The Limits of Self-Reflexivity in African Fiction." The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 37.1 (2002): 85-99.

    Lawlan, Rachel. "The Master of Petersburg: Confession and Double Thoughts in Coetzee and Dostoyevsky." ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 29.2 (1998): 131-157.

    Norris Easton, T. Kai. "Text and Hinterland: J. M. Coetzee and the South African Novel." Journal of Southern African Studies 21.4 (1995): 585-599.

    Watson, Steven. "'The Writer and the Devil': J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg." New Contrast 22.4 (1994): 47-61.

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