Imperial Fictions: J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace.

By Ariel

  • Release Date : 2002-07-01
  • Genre : Language Arts & Disciplines
  • FIle Size : 0.20 MB


Imperial Fictions: J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace. J. M. Coetzee's eighth novel, Disgrace, is the first of his novels to be set in South Africa after the 1994 elections. Awarded the 1999 Booker Prize, Disgrace has furthered the process of the canonization of Coetzee, a process that has been well underway since Coetzee's fourth novel, Life & Times of Michael K, won the 1983 Booker. One of only two authors to have been awarded the prize twice, Coetzee is also the subject of hundreds of scholarly articles and of at least six book-length studies, as well as being regularly studied in university literature courses. Though his work is generally highly regarded, especially in the west, for its polished and precise language and its rich intertextuality, Coetzee's critical reception has not been without controversy. Charges of evading the political realities of South Africa and of ideological complicity with colonial structures have been laid by Nadine Gordimer and Benita Parry among others. Nor has Coetzee been without his defenders on this question of his cultural politics. For example, in the view of such prominent Coetzee scholars as Graham Huggan and Stephen Watson, Coetzee's fictional strategies constitute "a radical questioning of the very discourses of power that upheld brutal and unjust social systems" (3-4). At least in part because of its status as a Booker Prize winner, Disgrace has already received considerable critical attention. While its gender codes have been the focus of some commentary, (1) however, very little attention has been paid to its race codes. (2) Indeed, with very few exceptions, the critics display what appears to be an almost willful blindness to the racial implications of Coetzee's narrative. (3) That is the project of my essay--to consider the status of the narrative strategies Coetzee adopts in Disgrace in relation to colonial discourses of power. I also briefly consider the question retrospectively: What light, if any, do the race codes of Disgrace throw on the political affiliations of Coetzee's earlier novels?