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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." 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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    ____________________________________________
    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, August 23, 2008
    Today was one of those days where I ended up sleeping in until, like, five in the afternoon. To make matters worse, I actually went to bed at -- get this -- 6:30 last night, so I lost about a day. Admittedly, I did wake up a few times and I did use the three or four waking hours to read and eat and such, but I still slept at least eighteen out of the past twenty-four hours! Save for a few exceptionally rare instances of extreme illness or travel-induced fatigue, I haven't come close to that sort of percentage in a quarter century. Oddly, those precious few hours of wakefulness proved to be among the most productive I have had all summer in terms of reading.

    Speaking of reading, I recently returned to the indexing services I'd used when I first began collecting the criticism on Coetzee. Expecting to find perhaps two or three additional articles, I plugged in the familiar keywords ("Coetzee" and "Disgrace") and was stunned to find that, in the three months since I started the reading, another dozen or so articles have made the indexes and, as a result, my reading list has grown longer. I'd be lying if I said I was ecstatic. I have been really looking forward to a change of pace from reading so much academic writing, even if it meant beginning the equally challenging and trebly stressful process of chapter writing. But I have consoled myself with the knowledge that, when I teach Disgrace later on this semester, I will come across as fairly well-prepared. I have also been allowing myself the luxury of reading Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life just to remember what it feels like to pick a book up, buy it because I want to read it and read it because it interests me. I'd almost forgotten what a joy it can be to read a book when motivated solely by the desire to learn about a topic, without having to worry about deadlines, note-taking, cross-referencing and the like.

    Although it may seem obvious, I really want to emphasize the importance of reading for fun, especially for those of us who have become, for lack of a better classification, professional readers. Often, what had once been solely a source of joy has become toil. It's important to remember what it was like to want to read when you feel like you have to read. The other night, I caught myself sitting up well past my bedtime, thoroughly exhausted but unable to stop reading Azerrad's book. And there was a moment when I sat there and realized that I had not felt so compelled to read in a long time (though, admittedly, there was a similar sense of not wanting to put the book down when I was reading Life & Times of Michael K). Forgetting that feeling, I think, would be a tragedy.

    When I wasn't reading for pleasure (or preparing for a new semester or entertaining family or fixing up my home or sleeping way more than I should have), I continued reading the seemingly endless pile of criticism on Disgrace.

    The essay I found most interesting, Elleke Boehmer's "Coetzee's Queer Body," doesn't actually discuss Disgrace at length. Perhaps because the subject matter Boehmer tackles has not figured into nearly any of the essays I have read on Coetzee, I found her exploration of the homoerotic undertones of the author's work refreshingly original. Beginning with the "provocative" fascination the young John Coetzee of Boyhood feels towards the legs of his male classmates, Boehmer traces an undeniably homoerotic streak throughout much of Coetzee's writing and address many of the important questions such content raises for readers of "a writer usually assumed to be unquestioningly heterosexual." For Boehmer, Coetzee's characters, seem to be drawn to a Grecian ideal of bodily perfection privileging the male body and viewing the female form as "soft."At the heart of her reading, therefore, is what Boehmer perceives as Coetzee's misogynistic inability or refusal to identify with the female other, especially apparent in Disgrace (when David Lurie cannot understand Lucy's perspective) and Elizabeth Costello, though Age of Iron also figures in her discussion. Since Boehmer's essay is merely an early attempt at addressing "the relative paucity of queer readings of [Coetzee's] work," the critic cannot be expected to do much more than scratch the surface of what may well provide the groundwork for someone else's dissertation or monograph. Still, readers of Boehmer's essay will surely benefit from a reading that immediately encourages us to consider several themes in Coetzee's oeuvre in a new light. Think, for example, of the sheer dissatisfaction of heterosexual intercourse in Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Disgrace, and Slow Man. Likewise, the Magistrate's fascination with the barbarian girl's legs in Barbarians may be worth revisiting.

    I also read Michael Marais's "Very Morbid Phenomena: 'Liberal Funk', the 'Lucy-Syndrome' and JM Coetzee's Disgrace," in which the critic reads against the "orthodox response to the novel" as "exemplifying whites' acceptance of their peripherality in the 'new' South Africa" (32). Drawing on G. W. F. Hegel's understanding of power relations, affirmation, and recognition between the dominant and subservient, Marais views Coetzee's novel as an attempt to halt the historical "cycle of domination and counter-domination" in which Lucy Lurie finds herself (35). Thus, where many critics view Lucy's response to her rape as a disturbing acquiescence, Marais attempts to show how strongly self-aware Lucy deliberately cultivates a sense of community and equality in her relationship with Petrus by treating her rape as she does. Still, like Magda's tumultuous relations with Hendrik and Klein-Anna in In the Heart of the Country, Lucy's relationship to Petrus does not gel the way she hopes it will. Instead, "what Coetzee sketches out in this text is a failed dialectic of recognition" in which Petrus continues the cycle Lucy attempts to halt (36). Despite this failure, however, Marais believes Disgrace raises questions about the "endless struggle for affirmation" and recognition "that determines colonial and post-colonial history" and encourages readers to "think beyond conventional antinomies" and "imagine possibilities of being and belonging with difference that are excluded by these dualisms" (38).

    Works Cited

    Boehmer, Elleke. "Coetzee's Queer Body. Journal of Literary Studies 21.3-4 (2005): 222-34.

    Marais, Michael. "Very Morbid Phenomena: 'Liberal Funk', the 'Lucy-Syndrome' and JM Coetzee's Disgrace." scrutiny2 6.1 (2001): 32-38.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, June 30, 2008
    The article I read today, Mike Marais's "The Possibility of Ethical Action: JM Coetzee's Disgrace," only superficially addresses the Booker Prize-winning novel. Despite its title and Marais's lament that "[w]hile the novel has been widely discussed, nothing much has been said about it," the essay is more of a theoretical treatise on the other than an analysis of Coetzee's novel. Still, since Marais is an important Coetzee scholar and the author of many texts central to the critical discussion surrounding his fiction, researchers may find this brief essay to be a useful supplementary reading when approaching the ever-expanding body of Coetzee criticism.

    For tomorrow: read another essay.

    Work Cited

    Marais, Mike. "The Possibility of Ethical Action: J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." scrutiny2 5.1 (2000): 57-63.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, February 5, 2008
    Like most Monday-Wednesday-Friday afternoons, I returned home from work today and promptly napped for several hours. Despite the sleeping, however, I did manage to go over another article on The Master of Petersburg. Michael Marais, it seems, is one of the more prevalent names among Coetzee scholars, as this is the third essay of his I have encountered in a relatively short period of time.

    Marais's "Death and the Space of the Response to the Other in J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg," like many of the other essays dealing with the novel, focuses on the relationship between fiction and history. Using the rather common criticism that Coetzee's fiction does not engage with the politics of South Africa in any defined way as a starting point, Marais examines the author's claim that literature can rival rather than supplement history. Although it will in all likelihood have little bearing on the shape of my own work with Coetzee, Marais's essay does strike me as the type of criticism many other critics-to-be would benefit from reading.

    For tomorrow: Try to write some more...

    Though I do not want this blog to veer too far away from the documentation of my dissertation, I am compelled to briefly address tomorrow's massive "Super Tuesday" primary elections. A number of my friends have been swept up by the political fervor of certain campaigns and I find it disturbing how readily some of the brighter people I know take the words of particular politicians at face value. At any rate, having gotten emails from a number of my friends urging me to vote for a particular candidate, I want to say that I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, Ron Paul, or any of the other candidates in tomorrow's primaries. I am, contentedly, politically unaffiliated. Furthermore, despite the oddly idealistic glasses through which some of my brighter friends have somehow decided to view certain unnamed candidates, I have very strong doubts about the front-running candidates. All of them.

    Granted, the president is largely America's diplomatic figurehead and I would hope the next president will represent our nation abroad with dignity and class, so I would prefer certain candidates over others strictly on the basis of their charisma...having lived abroad, I can say that the difference between the international response to Bill Clinton or George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush is night-and-day...we need someone the media in other countries will like. Still, I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama or John McCain or Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, no matter how charismatic they may be.

    Again, I will not attack any one candidate, though I do think there are more than a few sociopaths running and, like Ted Bundy before them, they've got people fawning over them...

    I will, however, endorse one candidate for tomorrow: Mike Gravel. Whether or not he'd make a good president, I respect what he has done with his career and he says things that none of the top-tier candidates want to say or hear. A vote for Gravel, it seems, would be a nice way of sending a message, however small, that common sense and individual liberty are important. If Sen. Gravel runs as a third-party candidate (with some Libertarians drooling at a cross-party Gravel-Paul ticket), I say vote for him there, too. You're not throwing your vote away by voting for a third party; you're making a small voice that much louder. And, believe me, we need that voice to get louder, we need third parties. Imagine if the Greens and Libertarians had a few seats in Congress...If you want a government to represent the people, you'll want a Communist, a Fascist, a handful of Libertarians, a smattering of Greens, a few dozen Socialists, a bunch of Democrats and a slew of Republicans. Take that first step now...take a voice away from the Big Two and vote for a small three.

    Work Cited

    Marais, Michael. "Death and the Space of the Response to the Other in J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg." J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual, ed. Jane Poyner. Athens: Ohio UP, 2006. 83-99.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, January 1, 2008
    Well, I finally got to the end of my stack of criticism on Age of Iron. The last essay I read, Michael Marais's "'Who Clipped the Hollyhocks?': J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron and the Politics of Representation," examines, among other things, the function of South African literature and its obligation to present a truth beyond the truths presented by the apartheid-era governments. Although the essay does not seem likely to figure into my dissertation, I can say that Marais is clearly one of the better Coetzee scholars out there and, as I progress beyond Age of Iron into the author's later works, I am certain I will seek out Marais's work early on in the process.

    Since it is quite late, I will keep this entry short. Over the next few days, I will do some last minute pre-writing, reviewing notes and such, look over a few books and otherwise prepare to start the chapter on Coetzee. Finally. I am nervous about the whole thing, but I figure I have to start and see what comes of the effort. At least I'm further along today than I was a few weeks ago when I started this blog project.

    For tomorrow: Finish writing the extra-curricular essay and, if there's time, (re)read a few passages on Age of Iron in the book-length studies of Coetzee.

    Work Cited

    Marais, Michael. "'Who Clipped the Hollyhocks?': J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron and the Politics of Representation." English in Africa. 20.2 (1993): 1-24.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, December 19, 2007
    Anyone who has ever attended graduate school in the humanities, especially those folks in fields where the odds of landing a tenure-track job are not particularly high, will be familiar with the phrase "publish or perish," the unofficial motto of academia. Essentially, we are told from the moment we set foot in our first graduate seminar that if we do not publish research in our respective fields, the likelihood of securing a comfortable living teaching at a college or university is essentially that of the Miami Dolphins making the NFL playoffs this year. In other words, your dreams of a twenty hour work week perish if you do not publish a sufficient amount of research to prove your worth as a scholar. Now, for some people, research is a great joy and the primary reason for attending graduate school. For others, the research is something to do in order to secure a teaching post. I place myself in the latter camp; though I genuinely enjoy reading and researching the authors and ideas I find fascinating, I am primarily concerned with teaching. That is where I find the most joy in life and, ironically, classroom discussion often inspires the critical thinking behind the articles I write.

    In any case, I find myself at a rather interesting place in my academic career. As an ABD student, I am qualified to teach at many schools and have, fortunately, not had a great deal of difficulty finding employment. As a fifth-year doctoral student, however, I am entirely off funding at my graduate school and must teach more classes than would optimally enable me to work on my dissertation at the pace I feel it deserves. (Note: the following passage is painfully cyclical and may make the reader dizzy). As a result, I find that I have to do the thing I most want to do (teach) in order to afford to support the completion of my doctoral studies (research), which I need to finish in order to land the sort of teaching job that will give me time to research and be an effective educator. Thus, teaching becomes the means to an end (that is, in itself, essentially, another means to another end) rather than the end to a means, which can be frustrating. I feel as if I am both where I want to be and about as far from where I want to be as one can be.

    Add the pressure to publish on top of all this and one may well find oneself taking on research duties unrelated to his or her dissertation in order to prove his or her scholarly value to a potential employer which, with the deadlines such extracurricular work carries with it, often pushes the deadline-free dissertation to the proverbial back burner's back burner. Having spent a significant time producing such "extra" research, I have been fortunate enough to forge good relationships with a number of publishers who occasionally solicit additional work from me. Naturally, I really want to keep writing for these publications. Unfortunately, I find that I am at a stage in my career where I actually have to decline such flattering solicitations if I am to free up the time I need to work on my own, increasingly burdensome, projects. Again, I am both where I want to be and, in being there, preventing myself from securing a comfortable position in the spot I am already in.

    This is the place I find myself in at the moment. I am slowly finishing up a few projects I took on, including a few for publications I am honored to be affiliated with. The reason I bring all this up is to justify why I will be assigning myself somewhat smaller dissertation readings for the next little while. In other words, I am not lazy, I promise! So, here's my plan: finish up the stuff pushing the dissertation back, work on the dissertation, focus on teaching. Makes sense, right?

    In any case, I did review the two essays I assigned to myself for today. The first article I read was Mike Marais's "Places of Pigs: The Tension between Implication and Transcendence in J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron and The Master of Petersburg." This essay, like the article of Marais's I reviewed a few days ago, devotes most of its space to a discussion of several key critical debates surrounding Coetzee's writing: those dealing with power, language, and their effects on one another. What I found most interesting, however, was Marais's discussion of the ways in which Coetzee uses the physical states of his protagonists to mirror and comment upon the social and political conditions of their respective environments, an issue I found myself contemplating as I re-read Age of Iron last week.

    A year or so ago, when the tiny academic journal I edit was assembling an issue devoted to Coetzee, several noted Coetzee scholars served on our editorial advisory board. One of the critics kind enough to work with our staff, Lidan Lin, penned the second essay I read today, "J. M. Coetzee and the Postcolonial Rhetoric of Simultaneity," a fact which sparked a bit more interest in the essay than I might otherwise have had. I am pleased to share my favorable impression of Lin's scholarship. This is another of the more accessible articles I have encountered and one with a pleasingly critical tendency to engage with poststructural and postcolonial theory in such a way as to problematize some of the more sweepingly poststructural readings of Coetzee's work while simultaneously acknowledging their value. Although the essay dealt overwhelmingly with Foe, Lin's exploration of Coetzee's "rhetoric of simultaneity" provides a valuable insight into the author's entire body of work. Whereas some critics fault Coetzee for seemingly avoiding a specifically South African literature, Lin rightfully praises the author for his "willingness to de-essentialize the uniqueness of colonial oppression by bringing it to bear on similar human experiences outside the historical specificity of colonialism" (43). Though brief, Lin's discussion of Age of Iron is insightful and adds to the discussion surrounding Curren's relationship with Vercueil by focusing on the role the other (the vagrant) plays in forming the self (Curren).

    For tomorrow: Read one article, work on the aforementioned "extras," and have a delightful evening socializing with my wonderful coworkers because, hey, I deserve a break!

    Works Cited

    Lin, Lidan. "J. M. Coetzee and the Postcolonial Rhetoric of Simultaneity." International Fiction Review. 28.1-2 (2001): 42-53.

    Marais, Mike. "Places of Pigs: The Tension between Implication and Transcendence in J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron and The Master of Petersburg." The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 31.1 (1996): 83-95.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, December 16, 2007
    I'm going to keep today's entry brief because I've been up late addressing some non-dissertation work that's due tomorrow, the sort of loose ends one always finds oneself tying together at semester's end.

    In any case, I did review the four articles I assigned myself last night, which puts me in pretty good position to begin writing within a week or so...finally.

    I found Gilbert Yeoh's "Love and Indifference in J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron" somewhat more thought-provoking than most criticism I have read regarding the novel. I also learned a new word: chiasmic, not to be confused with the equally cool "chimeric." Regardless, though I do not agree with Yeoh's almost purely negative interpretation of Mrs. Curren as a selfish, ultimately unloving woman, I do appreciate his attempts to prove the unreliability of her narration. In doing so, the author opens Coetzee's novel up to a broader range of interpretations. Additionally, in foregrounding Curren's preoccupation with literal and figurative motherhood, Yeoh rightfully invites readers to consider the metaphysical and existential importance of maternity when evaluating the relative morality of the elderly woman at the center of the novel. Furthermore, Yeoh's advocacy of Vercueil as the true hero of the novel is both refreshing and convincing.

    Both Rosemary Jolly's "Voyages in J.M. Coetzee's Novels: Narrative Conquests in Foe, Narrative Exploration in Age of Iron" and Mike Marais's "Writing With Eyes Shut: Ethics, Politics, and the Problem of the Other in the Fiction of J.M. Coetzee," on the other hand, seem to focus on many of the same issues critics regularly discuss in relation to Coetzee's fiction. Still, Jolly does identify Age of Iron as a thematic departure from Coetzee's previous work, even as she treads familiar critical ground while Marais admirably attempts to wrest Coetzee's fiction away from the postcolonial readings of Jolly and Kossew. Although neither essay seems poised to figure into my dissertation in any but the most cursory of contexts, the depth of their readings do make me question my initial evaluation of the novel as lacking universality.

    The fourth essay I read, Sheila Roberts's "'City of Man': The Appropriation of Dante's Inferno in J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron," is an interesting specimen of good criticism taken a bit too far. Although Roberts does a nice job exploring the intertextual aspects of Age of Iron, she occasionally fails to provide adequate support for her assertions, thereby weakening what could be a very strong interpretation. Still, despite the odd unsubstantiated comment, Roberts's essay stands out as one of the better--and more sympathetic--considerations of Curren's spiritual and psychological isolation as well as a fine assessment of the mother-daughter dynamic present throughout the text. So, while some of the references to Charon and Virgil seem forced, Roberts does succeed in furthering the critical discourse surrounding two of Age of Iron's most significant themes.

    For tomorrow: Review two articles more.

    Works Cited

    Jolly, Rosemary. "Voyages in J. M. Coetzee's Novels: Narrative Conquests in Foe, Narrative Exploration in Age of Iron." Matatu: Journal for African Culture and Society. 11 (1994): 61-70.

    Marais, Mike. "Writing with Eyes Shut: Ethics, Politics, and the Problem of the Other in the Fiction of J. M. Coetzee." English in Africa. 25.1 (1998): 43-60.

    Roberts, Sheila. "'City of Man': The Appropriation of Dante's Inferno in J M Coetzee's Age of Iron." Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa. 8.1 (1996): 33-44.

    Yeoh, Gilbert. "Love and Indifference in J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron." Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 38.3 (2003): 107-34.

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