Sobriquet 44.17

Of the three essays I've read since I last discussed the critical writing on Disgrace, only one really stands out as what I would consider "required reading." I should emphasize that the other two essays, both taken from boundary2's "Symposium on Disgrace," are not poorly written; they're just not likely to figure into my own work and do not add much to my understanding of the novel.

The first of the pair, Louise Bethlehem's "Pliant/Compliant; Grace/Disgrace; Pliant/Compliant," as one might infer from the title, devotes a fair amount of space to linguistic analysis while exploring the author's modes of representation. Hannan Hever's "Facing Disgrace: Coetzee and the Israeli Intellectual," the second boundary2 article I read (which was, coincidentally, translated by Bethlehem), uses Coetzee's depiction of the unanticipated cultural milieu of post-Apartheid South Africa to embark upon a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, focusing specifically on the intellectual's role in the tumultuous region upon realizing that the "Messianic" solutions hitherto envisioned do not account for the fact that "the resolution, the 'end,' of the struggle is only a point along a continuously unfolding trajectory" (45).

The essay I most enjoyed and which genuinely contributed a good deal to my own thinking about Coetzee's novel is Susan Smit-Marais and Marita Wenzel's excellent "Subverting the Pastoral: The Transcendence of Space and Place in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Taking a cue from Rita Barnard, the authors convincingly show how Coetzee inverts the conventions of the South African plaasroman in Disgrace. With as thorough a reading as any student of Coetzee could hope for, Smit-Marais and Wenzel reveal Coetzee's intricate weaving of pastoral conventions into an extremely complex critique of colonialism and its long-reaching socio-political aftermath. While virtually every sentence of the essay rings true, I was most impressed with the authors' brief discussion of Coetzee's use of nature (traditionally a reflection of the white settler's psychological satisfaction, it usually emphasizes "pureness, growth and life") to foreground the exhausted, barren state of South African society after a "history of colonial exploitation and dispossession" (214). And this is only one of many extremely good discussions in thiss exceptional essay.

For tomorrow: read an article or a bit more of Youth.

Works Cited

Bethlehem, Louise. "Pliant/Compliant; Grace/Disgrace; Pliant/Compliant." scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 20-24.

Haver, Hannan. "Facing Disgrace: Coetzee and the Israeli Intellectual." scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 42-46.

Smit-Marais, Susan and Marita Wenzel. "Subverting the Pastoral: The Transcendence of Space and Place in J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Beyond the Threshold: Explorations of Liminality in Literature. Eds. Hein Viljoen and Chris Van Der Merwe. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. 209-21.


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