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    Sobriquet 46.17

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008
    Well, it looks like my internet problem will be solved some time Monday, which will be nice. I will try to post an entry every so often until then, but I can't promise to publish anything on a daily basis before I have that issue resolved.

    On the dissertation front, I actually had a brief impromptu meeting with my supervisor yesterday afternoon. Among other things, we chatted a bit about some of the ideas I have been toying with for the chapter on Disgrace. I left feeling better about things; it's always nice to get a vote of confidence from someone when you've been toiling in isolation for as long as I have.

    I also read some more of Inner Workings as well as another critical essay on Disgrace, which I will have to discuss later, when I have more reliable (i.e., not restricted to an hour of use) access to the internet. Inner Workings is a wonderful little book, by the way. Coetzee is an extremely insightful literary critic who does not write in an overtly academic voice. Rather than inundate readers with evidence of his own scholarly research as is common in smaller, explicitly academic publications, Coetzee directs his writing at a broader, though equally literate, readership (most of the essays in the collection were originally published as reviews in the New York Review of Books, for instance). In doing so, he combines the sort of critical attention to detail one associates with scholars writing for their colleagues with the enthusiasm of someone who writes a monthly column in a more accessible intellectual magazine. The end result, as is often the case with good criticism, makes the reader want to seek out the book in question and read it for him- or herself.

    For tomorrow through Monday: Read an essay or a bit of The Rights of Desire each day.

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    Friday, August 8, 2008
    Desiring a change of pace, I chose to read J. M. Coetzee's essay on Italo Svevo in Inner Workings in lieu of any critical writing on Coetzee himself. Although I haven't much to say about his views on Svevo, I can say that I enjoyed Coetzee's review and, if I had the time, would certainly consider picking up a copy of a Svevo novel (probably Senility) after reading Coetzee's comments on the Triestine author.

    Since I will probably not have much time over the next few days, I will try to continue reading in Inner Workings if I cannot read any of the remaining essays on Disgrace. I'll also take a few days' break from updating the website, but I will continue reading, I promise.

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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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