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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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1 Becoming a Man



Becoming a Man

Je voulais tout simplement être un homme parmi d’autres hommes. J’aurais voulu arriver lisse et jeune dans un monde nôtre et ensemble édifier.

Frantz Fanon, Peau Noire, Masques Blancs

Masculinity is riddled with attendant expectations. If one were to perform and attain a series of goals, one would become a man, though not without first going through a series of conditions, Rudyard Kipling assures us in his poem If, published in 1910. Inspired by the actions of Leander Starr Jameson, the protagonist of the Jameson Raid (1895–1896), an attempted coup against the South African Republic instigated by Cecil John Rhodes that would eventually fail in toppling Paul Kruger’s government, the poem is a purported trans-generational masculine transmission of advice on how to successfully walk the path towards manhood: “If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,/Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,/And-which is more-you’ll be a Man, my son!.”1

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