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    Sobriquet 47.22

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008
    I'll have to keep tonight's entry brief. It's late; it's been an exceedingly long day and I am tired. I struggled to fall asleep last night so, despite having the opportunity to listen to the first fifth of Herman Hesse's Demian, the latest on my "Audiobooks to Play in the Dark When I Can't Sleep" list (having finished listening to Paul Auster's excellent Man in the Dark last week), I awoke this morning with a bit more grumpiness than usual. That said, it was not a bad day by any stretch of the imagination, the grumpiness dissipating rather quickly. But it was a busy, fatiguing day nonetheless.

    As far as dissertation work goes, I reviewed Richard Brock's "Putting the Soul in Order," another of the essays in the Stirrings Still issue devoted entirely to Coetzee. Brock's text only briefly touches upon Disgrace in what amounts to an oeuvre-encompassing study of the "purgatorial" spaces in Coetzee's fiction. Brock's reading of Disgrace is consistent with a significant strain of Coetzee criticism, namely that which views bodily suffering as the means of achieving a metaphysical understanding of the human (and, perhaps, non-human animal) condition. Furthermore, Brock writes extremely readable prose, making a complex topic both accessible and comprehendible.

    For tomorrow: Same as the past couple of days.

    Work Cited

    Brock, Richard. "Putting the Soul in Order: Purgatorial Spaces and the Role of the Writer in the Novels of J.M. Coetzee" Stirrings Still: The International Journal of Existential Literature 3.1 (2006): 110-127.

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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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