Sobriquet 44.23

Lately, I have been a bit down on myself for taking as long as I have to work on the dissertation. I know that some people are capable of breezing through the process, churning out passably good scholarship on their way to finishing the dissertation, their degree, and their education in what often seems like no time at all. I'm not one of those people. I am rather deliberate with my research, painstakingly ensuring that I read each and every word of criticism on Coetzee, even when it seems repetitive and more than a little pointless. Likewise, I try to do a small amount of work each day, concentrating as intensely as I can rather than cram as much work into as short a time period as possible, figuring that I will retain more information that way.

And, still, it's frustrating.

I mean, I know some people turn in work that is of poorer quality that that I am aiming to produce and I know that many of those people pass and receive their doctorates, but I cannot bring myself to accept that sort of work from myself. Instead, I keep plugging away and I keep trying not to allow the doubts creep into my consciousness and find purchase there. The truth of the matter is that no two dissertations are the same just as no two individual scholars are the same. Some subjects are easier to research than others, some people are far more prolific writers than their colleagues, and some people simply possess certain talents that their peers lack and that will give them an edge. And, of course, some people work their way through graduate school while others take loans or receive grants.

The funny thing is that all this was prompted by some fellow graduate student's inadvertent announcement to the entire list-serv that, though he is not yet an A.B.D. student, he will finish his dissertation in less than a year. I thought to myself, "shit, Erik, why can't you work that fast?" I realize that dissertation-writing is not a race, that one does best when one focuses on meeting his or her own needs rather than fulfilling the expectations of others, but, man, I wanna be done, like, six months ago.

At any rate, the three articles I've not yet discussed on the blog are sitting atop my desk and I'd like to address them briefly. Of the trio, Vilashni Cooppan's "National Literature in Transnational Times: Writing Transition in the 'New' South Africa" had the least to do with Disgrace since, as its title suggests, the article deals with a mode of writing rather than a single work. Still, in situating Coetzee's novel within a transitional mode, Cooppan raises some interesting points. Since "[a]partheid in Disgrace," Cooppan argues, "is an action not yet carried through to its conclusion," we may read the novel as a snapshot of a "moment that lives the difference between the apartheid 'then' and the postapartheid 'now' as a break, a discontinuity between states rather than an either/or choice between the preconfigurative fulfillment of an anticipated identity and the burial of an obsolete one" (363). Thus, "Disgrace ends by oscillating between times and states, death and birth, the past of the completed perfective and the unknown yet hopeful future to come," precisely the focus of so many recent critical discussions of the novel (363).

The other two essays I read -- Ariella Azoulay's "An Alien Woman/a Permitted Woman: On JM Coetzee's Disgrace" and Georgina Horrell's "JM Coetzee's Disgrace: One Settler, One Bullet and the 'New South Africa'" -- focus largely on Lucy Lurie's role in the novel. The novel, for Azoulay, poses a challenge for the reader: to find a connection between Lucy's attack and David's assault on Melanie Isaacs. Backed by psychoanalytic notions of trauma, Azoulay reads Disgrace as an exercise in "adopt[ing] a nomadic point of view . . . which is capable of looking at reality from contradictory viewpoints" in order to perceive the complex layers of pain, retribution, and healing omnipresent throughout the novel and in places like South Africa (37). Horrell's essay also deals with trauma, though she focuses on the ways in which "an inscription of [colonial] guilt is performed upon gendered flesh" (32). In other words, Horrell scrutinizes Coetzee's use of Lucy Lurie as the canvas upon which the accumulated anger underlying generations of racial tension in South Africa is violently expressed.

For tomorrow: Read another essay, work on the bibliography, or read some of Coetzee's essays or interviews.

Works Cited

Azoulay, Ariella. "An Alien Woman/a Permitted Woman: On JM Coetzee's Disgrace." scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 33-41.

Cooppan, Vilashini. "National Literature in Transnational Times: Writing Transition in the 'New' South Africa." Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation. Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood, eds. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005. 346-369.

Horrell, Georgina. "JM Coetzee's Disgrace: One Settler, One Bullet and the 'New South Africa.'" scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 25-32.


From Minxy:

I understand your concerns about getting your dissertation finished in a certain time-frame, but I think you shouldn't worry too much about the length of time. You're producing very high-quality writing while also making time for work, play and other things. You're finding as much balance as you can and that's difficult to do when engrossed in such an expansive project as a dissertation. So don't be down on yourself for too long, ok. :)

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