J.M. Coetzee: Art, Ethics, and Politics

Course Number: ENGL 234
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 234
Quarter: Spring 2020
Instructor: Samolsky, Russell
Day(s): F
Time: 2:30 PM - 4:50 PM
Location: SH 2714
Description:

This seminar proposes to work through Coetzee’s texts in relation to the contemporary turn to ethics and politics. Indeed, it is in such a context that we can read Gayatri Spivak’s statement that she has “often felt that the formal logic of Coetzee’s fiction mimes ethical moves in an uncanny way.” While Coetzee’s writings have been most often situated in terms of postcolonial discourse (an engagement that we shall not altogether forgo), his texts also resonate powerfully with the questions that motivate contemporary theory. How, for example, might Waiting for the Barbarians be read in terms of the legally 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” and states of exception? What intersections might we draw between Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer, bare life, and The Life and Times of Michael K? 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 the question of the animal? These are some of the questions that we shall pose in a seminar that focuses principally on Coetzee’s novels but also addresses some of his autobiographical and critical writings.