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Literary Spaces in the Selected Works of J.M. Coetzee

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Katarzyna Karwowska

This book closely examines the processes governing the construction of literary spaces in the selected works of J.M. Coetzee, focusing in particular on the writer’s subversive and destructive treatment of traditional modes of representation which participated in the imperial enterprise and served to overcome the ontological insecurity of colonisers. This strategy results in the formation of heterogenous, fluid and open locations which can be deciphered along the postmodern spatial theories of Foucault, Augé, Deleuze and Guattari. The transformation of topographies not only cleanses them of the conventional residue in preparation for alternative spatial rearrangements, but also initiates processes which reverse the colonising project by breaching the gap between the other and the self.
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Chapter Four: Disgrace: Places of Becoming

← 82 | 83 →Chapter Four

Extract

Disgrace is Coetzee’s first novel written and published after the fall of apartheid in the Republic of South Africa. Such a profound change in the writer’s homeland triggered the transformation of its socio-political scene, which in turn made space for invigorated and previously unheard vibes of unrestricted artistic and intellectual enterprise. Coetzee’s Disgrace, however, failed to satisfy the needs and expectations of the majority of sprouting democratic society.35 While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was struggling to amend the wrongs and crimes of the past and to unite a society so strongly divided, Coetzee’s novel seemed, at the most basic level of the story it narrated (i.e. of a white woman raped by black men), to be heading in the opposite direction. Obviously, this negative interpretation stemmed from the failure, intended or not, to attend to the novel’s nuances and complexity. The reading proposed in this book belongs to the body of criticism which remains open and especially attentive to the novel’s potential for staging transformation.

The focus on spaces that form the background of the protagonist’s story and the strategy employed in the process of their creation confirm, again, the importance and huge interpretative potential of space, locality and landscape in Coetzee’s oeuvre. The construction of textual spaces is, as in the major part of the writer’s fiction, a conscious and complicated process. This time Coetzee’s novel conveys a specific place and time, unlike some of his previous writings which, according to Derek Attridge, show “a lack...

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