This seminar proposes to examine the ways in which the texts of Kafka, Beckett, and Coetzee resonate when read in relation to one another. We shall investigate how Kafka, Beckett and Coetzee influence one another by reflecting not only on a linear paradigm of influence, but also on the ways in which a work of art might bend back to influence the reception of a text that was composed before it. Our concern, however, will not only be with questions of literary influence but also in terms of our contemporary ethical and political contexts. While Coetzee’s writings, for example, have been most often situated in terms of postcolonial discourse (an engagement that we shall not altogether forgo), his works also resonate powerfully with the questions that motivate contemporary concerns. How, for example, might Waiting for the Barbarians be read in terms of the revelation of sanctioned torture at Abu Ghraib prison? What might this allegory forged in the context of late apartheid still have to teach us about “the law,” states of exception, and the war on terror? What intersections might we draw between Kafka’s The Trial and The Life and Times of Michael K? How might we think through the problem of waiting or time in Beckett’s plays and Coetzee’s novels? And what relation might be drawn between the emergence of the work of art in Disgrace and Jacques Derrida’s thought on the event, the arrivant, responsibility, and our ethical relations to animals? These are just some of the questions that we shall pose as we make our way through intersecting moments in the corpus of this extraordinary triune of writers that together constitute one of the great traditions of 20th and 21st century literature.
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