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    Sobriquet 47.21

    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." InĀ 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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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, June 6, 2008
    After last night's epic effort, I will keep this entry on the short side. Despite the persistence of my screwed up sleep schedule, I didn't sleep in too late today and managed to review two essays dealing with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, Isidore Diala's "Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee, and Andre Brink: Guilt, Expiation, and the Reconciliation Process in Post-Apartheid South Africa" (which, annoyingly, was poorly photocopied and will have to be replaced) and Jacqueline Rose's "Apathy and Accountability: South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Comission." Neither article devotes more than a few pages to Disgrace, but I found both to be extremely readable and, especially in the case of Diala's essay, quite quotable (a trait any beleaguered dissertation-writer will love).

    Diala's reading of Disgrace is consistent with much of the critical literature surrounding the novel:

    Coetzee's black characters are perhaps too deprived, brutalized, and aggrieved to inspire hopes of racial harmony. Coetzee hardly seems to be under any delusions of the immediate possibility of reconciliation so soon after apartheid. (68)

    ...if Lucy's mode of engagement with history is Coetzee's valid paradigm for whites' negotiation for a precarious foothold in post-apatheid South Africa, then his conception of their fall from grace evokes near absolute depravity. (60)

    After a lengthy discussion of the TRC, Rose shares a reading of the novel "as Coetzee's response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission" (191).

    While neither essay explores the novel in depth, I would say that they are both extremely good starting points for anyone interested in one of the more popular (and plausible) interpretations of Disgrace.

    For tomorrow: Read another article or, if I'd prefer, transcribe notes or work on my bibliography.

    Works Cited

    Diala, Isadore. "Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, and Andre Brink: Guilt, Expiation, and the Reconciliation Process in Post-Apartheid South Africa." Journal of Modern Literature 25.2 (2001-2002): 50-68.

    Rose, Jacqueline. "Apathy and Accountability: South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission." Raritan 21.4 (2002): 175-95.

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