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«Wooden Man»?

Masculinities in the Work of J.M. Coetzee («Boyhood», «Youth» and «Summertime»)


Daniel Matias

This book addresses the representation of masculinities in the work of J. M. Coetzee, with a particular focus on the writer’s trilogy: Boyhood (1997), Youth (2002) and Summertime (2009). Provocatively dealing with questions of autobiography, Coetzee’s trilogy provides a panoramic view of a man’s development through various stages of life and, equally, different geographical locations, such as apartheid South Africa, sixties London and South Africa in the throes of democratic revolution.

Attentive to the masculine formations that the trilogy represents, this work draws on conceptual frameworks and methodologies provided by the joint critique of gender and postcolonial studies, and is particularly animated by the discussions raised by men’s studies, a field that is nowadays patently interested in postcolonial / transnational masculinities. In this vein, the work discusses not only aspects related to violence and gendered formations as they occur and manifest themselves in the intersections of the local and global, but also the possibilities of refashioning identities increasingly attentive to an ethics of Otherness, one of the staples of Coetzee’s writing.

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Introduction: Coetzee, Gender and Ethics



Coetzee, Gender and Ethics

But he fears there will be no meeting, not in this life. If he must settle on a likeness for the pair of them, his man and he, he would write that they are like two ships sailing in contrary directions, one west, and the other east. Or better, that they are deckhands toiling in the rigging, the one on a ship sailing west, the other on a ship sailing east. Their ships pass close, close enough to hail. But the seas are rough, the weather is stormy: their eyes lashed by the spray, their hands burned by the cordage, they pass each other by, too busy even to wave.

J. M. Coetzee, The Nobel Lecture in Literature

In his Nobel Prize Lecture,1 the 2003 Laureate in Literature John Maxwell Coetzee, drawing on Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, questioned the possibility of human community and the ethics of Otherness, a theme central to both gender and postcolonial studies.2

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