Sobriquet 37.5

The following post was originally published on 12/14/2007.

First of all, I want to thank all my friends who have been stopping by and reading Sobriquet Magazine, sending encouraging emails, and otherwise supporting me. I am pleased to report that, despite a poor night's rest and an awfully strong temptation to hit snooze until the alarm simply stopped buzzing, I managed to pull myself out of bed and make the hour-long drive to the library, as planned. I even read the one essay--albeit a brief one--I had assigned myself for the day. In all honesty, I think it was knowing that I would have to report on my progress here that really helped me resist succumbing to the lure of closing my leaden eyelids. So, again, thank you for reading!

One of the best parts of library research is the photocopying. Seriously. Since it takes so long to locate, copy, collate, and staple journal articles, one has the delightful sense of having worked without exerting any significant amount of effort in the process.

On the other hand, I find myself frustrated by the fact that the library I use does not subscribe to every single serial ever published. Thus, of the forty articles listed in the MLA database pertaining to Age of Iron, only a dozen or so were to be found in the library, forcing me to resort to the library's cleverly-dubbed "Iliad" inter-library loan service to request help from afar (because, you know, requesting books and articles from distant libraries is an awful lot like the Trojan War).

So, after I collected the articles, I decided to read Georg M. Gugelberger's "'Heralding' the New 'Age of Iron': J. M. Coetzee's Homelessness, Migrancy, and Nomadology," an essay both interesting and frustrating. I say "frustrating" because the article is riddled with the sort of errors one hates to find in a peer-reviewed academic journal. First of all, Gugelberger erroneously refers to Coetzee's novel as "The Age of Iron" throughout the paper, adding the definite article to the title for no apparent reason. In a similar vein, Mrs. Curren, the novel's protagonist, becomes "Mrs. Cullen" by the essay's end (134). Furthermore, the author calls Curren "an old spinster," a designation that might mislead readers unfamiliar with Coetzee's novel into believing that the woman has never been married (although it is not explicitly stated that Curren was, in fact, married, the novel is in the form of an epistolary novel to her daughter in which she makes several comments suggesting she had lost a husband to illness some time prior to the opening of the book). Strangely, while Gugelberger does use the elderly woman's correct surname at this stage in his essay, he dubs her "Ellen," when her name is actually Elizabeth (130). I realize I am playing semantic games here, but little errors like these make me doubt the author's grasp of the novel and, as a result, cast a shadow of doubt over the interpretations and claims in the article.

Additionally, for an essay appearing in a journal called "Christianity and Literature," there is no mention of Christianity and--oddly--hardly any discussion of Coetzee's literature. Instead, Gugelberger speaks in broad terms of a paradigm shift he imagines will take place in the humanities. Drawing on Edward Said's discussions of exile, the author posits that a concern with metaphysical homelessness will take the place of the Other as the locus of postcolonial discourse, and suggests that Coetzee, constantly at the vanguard of the literary imagination, serves as the harbinger for this new movement. Despite his careless errors, however, Gugelberger is right to identify a somewhat broader conception of homelessness as a major--not necessarily the major--concern of writers caught under the umbrella of postcolonialism. One need look no further than Slow Man for evidence of this concern: Elizabeth Costello is "homeless" when separated from Paul Rayment, who has spent his life living in homes, but never feeling "at home" (159). Still, the article adds little to the body of criticism surrounding Coetzee and, despite its overtures towards redefining a literary-cultural epoch, merely repeats, to greater or lesser degrees, the same conceptions of homelessness one encounters in Said's discussions of exile, Steinbeck's depiction of Okies, Rushdie's notion of an "imaginary homeland," or Camus's vision of l'etranger.

For tomorrow: Read a minimum of two more essays and see if any of the articles I could not find in my library are available at Cornell's library.

How nerdy am I? This nerdy:

Works Cited
Coetzee, J. M. Slow Man. New York: Viking, 2005.

Gugelberger, Georg M. "'Heralding' the New 'Age of Iron': J. M. Coetzee, Homelessness, Migrancy, and Nomadology." Christianity and Literature. 45.1 (1995): 129-36.


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