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Postcolonial Literature: J.M. Coetzee

ENGL 775.401
crosslisted as: COML 700
instructor(s):
R 9-12:00

In this course we will consider the oeuvre of the South African novelist and Nobel Prize-winner, J.M. Coetzee and the literary, theoretical, and political issues it raises. The primary reading list will include Dusklands, In the Heart of the CountryWaiting for the BarbariansLife and Times of Michael KFoeAge of IronThe Master of PetersburgDisgrace, the memoirs BoyhoodYouth, and Summertime, and Diary of a Bad Year. We will also study Coetzee’s wide-ranging academic writing, which addresses issues like the relationship between literature and history, authority and authorship, confession,  censorship, torture, gender and sexuality, realism and autobiography, animal rights and environmentalism, the nature of the “classic,” translation, and more.  We will examine Coetzee’s complex, elusive, and critical relationship to South Africa (his attitudes towards apartheid, colonial discourse, the state, etc.),  as well as his significance in the broader international context: his relationship to writers like Kafka, Beckett, Nabakov, Dostoyevsky, and, more generally, to modernism, postmodernism, and postcolonialism. The Coetzee seminar, in short, will be of interest to all graduate students: it is virtually a proseminar. Modernists, eighteenth-century specialists, comparatists, postcolonialists, feminists, and Africanists are all welcome. Note that this version of the course will also consider Coetzee's long-standing interest in cinema and film theory, his screenplay, some failed film versions of his books, and, hopefully, the promising new film of Waiting for the Barbarians starring Mark Rylands, Jonny Depp, and Gana Bayarsaikan. Requirements: an oral presentation on an assigned topic and a final essay on a topic of the student’s own choosing.  Coetzee's work and the debates it has fueled present ideal opportunities for individualized research and archival work; seminar participants will also be able to draw inspiration from Coetzee scholars, who will occasionally come in for invited presentations and conversation.