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    Sobriquet 45.17

    Saturday, August 23, 2008
    This post is a continuation of Sobriquet 45.16.

    The remainder of my reading consisted of relatively brief articles and reviews. In "J. M. Coetzee's Cultural Critique," Harald Leusmann provides a reading of the novel that would likely fit under the umbrage of what Marais terms an "orthodox response," viewing the novel as a reflection of "the collective mood of present-day South Africa's white population at the end of the dark twentieth century" (60). As is common with such readings, Leusmann regards Lurie's development over the course of the novel as a journey of self-discovery in which the protagonist eventually realizes that loving the other is more rewarding than the brand of self-love with which he begins the book. In Sarah Lyall's brief article on Coetzee's second Booker Prize, the critic briefly reviews the same ground as Leusmann. David Attwell, in his excellent review of Disgrace, the critic delivers what amounts to one of the most definitive readings of the novel, emphasizing many of the issues Leusmann and Lyall consider as well as highlighting (among other things) the linguistic, sexual, and historical ideas so many later critics have elaborated on. As is the case with much of Attwell's work, "Coetzee and Post-Apartheid South Africa" is required reading for any student of Coetzee. Sarah Ruden's brief review of Coetzee's novel, while short, draws attention to the spiritual aspect of the novel several later critics discuss at greater length when she notes that the "novel brings to mind the theology of kenosis, the self-emptying necessary for spiritual growth." In "After the Fall," Michael Gorra praises Coetzee for his brave willingness to depict "an almost unrelieved series of grim moments" and, presciently, implies that the novel will likely bring the author the Nobel he would eventually win in 2003.

    For tomorrow: Read another article.

    Works Cited

    Attwell, David. "Coetzee and Post-Apartheid South Africa." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. Journal of Southern African Studies 27.4 (2001): 865-867.

    Gorra, Michael. "After the Fall." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. New York Times 28 Nov. 1999: BR7+.

    Leusmann, Harald. "J. M. Coetzee's Cultural Critique." World Literature Today 78.3 (2004): 60-63.

    Lyall, Sarah. "J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace Wins Booker Prize." New York Times 26 Oct. 1999. Available online.

    Ruden, Sarah. Rev. of Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee. Christian Century 16 Aug. 2000. Available online.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, April 16, 2008
    In addition to reading a bit of Life & Times of Michael K. today, I read Charles Sarvan's "Disgrace: A Path to Grace?" Although I vaguely remember reading the essay a few years ago while researching the novel for my last-ever paper for my last-ever graduate seminar, I'd forgotten virtually everything about the article.

    To be honest, I did not find Sarvan's essay particularly helpful. In fact, the essay reads like a rather uninspired book report, albeit with good grammar. The bulk of the article is plot summary, though the occasional critical insights do make the piece a bit more substantial than, say, your average scholarly book review. To Sarvan's credit, he does pick up on and discuss some of the novel's more overlooked content (the incestuous overtones of David Lurie's relationship with Melanie Isaacs, for instance). Otherwise, the essay retreads fairly common critical territory such as the various meanings of (dis)grace and the novel's commentary on post-Apartheid South Africa. The essay's big fault, however, is its over-reliance on a strangely eclectic group of classic literary and philosophical texts to "support" what often amounts to merely pedestrian observation. Citing everyone from novelists as varied as Thomas More and Nadine Gordimer to poets like W. H. Auden and William Butler Yeats to philosophers like Martin Heidegger and Boethius as well as canonical works of Eastern religious thought (The Upanishads and The Dhammapada, in particular), it often seems like Sarvan is more eager to display the breadth of his learning than he is in probing Coetzee's novel -- and, in doing so, often derails what has the potential to be a thoughtful and provocative discussion. Indeed, "A Path to Grace?" does little more than scratch the surface of an intricate novel, leaving readers with the level of insight one might expect from a casual reading.

    For tomorrow: Write. If I find the energy, read a bit as well.

    Work Cited
    Sarvan, Charles. "Disgrace: A Path to Grace?" World Literature Today 78.1 (2004): 26-29.

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