Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

“Form follows dysfunction”

Coetzee’s Narrative Ethics of Disability

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2018), 12, (1), 71–87.

Abstract

The article seeks to demonstrate the extent to which J. M. Coetzee’s post-rational ethics of embodied understanding is compatible with dismodernism, which champions subjectivity as predicated on dependence, malleability, and difference. In proposing that ethics in Coetzee’s work is to a large extent a function of the formal qualities of his writing, the article measures modernism against dismodernism, concepts that are heavily dependent on fragmentation, disruption, and estrangement for their operation. Taking on board the structural confluence of ethics and form, the argument is that narrative ambiguity approximates the logic of disability in its reliance on the metaphysics of lack. This hypothesis is tested on fictionalizations of bodily dysfunctions in Coetzee’s first novel Dusklands (1974).

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Attridge, Derek. J. M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 2004. Print. J. M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading Google Scholar

Attridge, Derek. The Work of Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 2015. Print. The Work of Literature Google Scholar

Attwell, David. J. M. Coetzee, South Africa and the Politics of Writing. Berkeley/Los Angeles/Oxford: University of California Press, 1993. Print. J. M. Coetzee, South Africa and the Politics of Writing Google Scholar

Barker, Clare. Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print. Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality Google Scholar

Barker, Clare. and Stuart Murray. “Disabling Postcolonialism. Global Disability Cultures and Democratic Criticism.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4.3 (2010): 219–36. Print. Disabling Postcolonialism. Global Disability Cultures and Democratic Criticism Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4.3 219 36 Google Scholar

Clarkson, Carrol. J. M. Coetzee – Countervoices. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print. J. M. Coetzee – Countervoices Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Age of Iron. New York and London: Penguin Books, 1998. Print. Age of Iron Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Diary of a Bad Year. London: Vintage, 2008. Print. Diary of a Bad Year Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Doubling the Point. Ed. David Attwell. Cambridge/Massachusetts and London: Harvard UP, 1992. Print. Doubling the Point Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Dusklands. London: Vintage, 1982. Print. Dusklands Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Elizabeth Costello. London: Vintage, 2003. Print. Elizabeth Costello Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Foe. London: Penguin Books, 1987. Print. Foe Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. In the Heart of the Country. London: Vintage, 2004. Print. In the Heart of the Country Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Life and Times of Michael K. London: Vintage, 2004. Print. Life and Times of Michael K Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. The Master of Petersburg. London: Vintage, 2004. Print. The Master of Petersburg Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Slow Man. London: Vintage, 2006. Print. Slow Man Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. Waiting for the Barbarians. London: Vintage, 2004. Print. Waiting for the Barbarians Google Scholar

Coetzee, J. M. The Works of Ford Madox Ford with Particular Reference to the Novels. Austin: University of Texas at Austin, 1969. Master’s thesis. The Works of Ford Madox Ford with Particular Reference to the Novels Google Scholar

Davidson, Michael. Concerto for the Left Hand: Disability and the Defamiliar Body. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. Print. Concerto for the Left Hand: Disability and the Defamiliar Body Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. “The End of Identity Politics and the Beginning of Dismodernism.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York: Routledge, 2006. 231–43. Print. The End of Identity Politics and the Beginning of Dismodernism The Disability Studies Reader 231 43 Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. London and New York: Verso, 1995. Print. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body Google Scholar

De Boever, Arne. Narrative Care: Biopolitics and the Novel. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Print. Narrative Care: Biopolitics and the Novel Google Scholar

Dooley, Gillian. J. M. Coetzee and the Power of Narrative. New York: Cambria Press, 2010. Print. J. M. Coetzee and the Power of Narrative Google Scholar

Flaugh, Christian. “Of Colonized Mind and Matter: The Dis/Abilities of Negritude in Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4.3 (2010): 291–308. Print. Of Colonized Mind and Matter: The Dis/Abilities of Negritude in Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability 4.3 291 308 Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature Google Scholar

Hall, Alice. Disability and Modern Fiction: Faulkner, Morrison, Coetzee and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. Disability and Modern Fiction: Faulkner, Morrison, Coetzee and the Nobel Prize for Literature Google Scholar

Hall, Alice. Literature and Disability. London and New York: Routledge, 2016. Print. Literature and Disability Google Scholar

Helgesson, Stefan. Writing in Crisis. Ethics and History in Gordimer, Ndebele and Coetzee. Scottsville (SA): University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2004. Print. Writing in Crisis. Ethics and History in Gordimer, Ndebele and Coetzee Google Scholar

Hutcheon, Linda. Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 1980. Print. Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox Google Scholar

Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1978. Print. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response Google Scholar

James, David. “Dusklands (1974).” A Companion to the Works of J. M. Coetzee. Ed. Tim Mehigan. Rochester and New York: Camden House, 2011. 39–55. Print. Dusklands (1974) A Companion to the Works of J. M. Coetzee 39 55 Google Scholar

Leist, Anton and Peter Singer. J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 2010. Print. J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature Google Scholar

Marais, Mike. Secretary of the Invisible–The Idea of Hospitality in the Fiction of J. M. Coetzee. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009. Print. Secretary of the Invisible–The Idea of Hospitality in the Fiction of J. M. Coetzee Google Scholar

Marais, Mike. “Writing with Eyes Shut: Ethics, Politics, and the Problem of the Other in the Fiction of J. M. Coetzee.” English in Africa 25.1 (1998): 43–60. Print. Writing with Eyes Shut: Ethics, Politics, and the Problem of the Other in the Fiction of J. M. Coetzee English in Africa 25.1 43 60 Google Scholar

Mehigan, Tim. “Introduction.” A Companion to the Works of J. M. Coetzee. Ed. Tim Mehigan. Rochester and New York: Camden House, 2011. 1–8. Print. Introduction A Companion to the Works of J. M. Coetzee 1 8 Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2000. Print. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse Google Scholar

Nealon, Jeffrey T. Alterity Politics: Ethics and Performative Subjectivity. Durham and London: Duke UP, 1998. Print. Alterity Politics: Ethics and Performative Subjectivity Google Scholar

Newton, Adam Zachary. Narrative Ethics. Cambridge/Massachusetts/London: Harvard UP, 1995. Print. Narrative Ethics Google Scholar

Nünning, Ansgar F. “Reconceptualising Unreliable Narration: Synthesizing Cognitive and Rhetorical Approaches.” A Companion to Narrative Theory. Eds James Phelan and Peter J. Rabinovitz. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. 89–107. Print. Reconceptualising Unreliable Narration: Synthesizing Cognitive and Rhetorical Approaches A Companion to Narrative Theory 89 107 Google Scholar

Quayson, Ato. Aesthetic Nervousness. New York: Columbia UP, 2007. Print. Aesthetic Nervousness Google Scholar

Savarese, Ralph. “Toward a Postcolonial Neurology: Autism, Tito Mukhopadhyay, and a New Geo-poetics of the Body.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4.3 (2010): 273–89. Print. Toward a Postcolonial Neurology: Autism, Tito Mukhopadhyay, and a New Geo-poetics of the Body Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4.3 273 89 Google Scholar

Stanton, Katherine. Cosmopolitan Fictions: Ethics, Politics, and Global Change in the Works of Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Ondaatje, Jamaica Kincaid, and J.M. Coetzee. London: Routledge, 2006. Print. Cosmopolitan Fictions: Ethics, Politics, and Global Change in the Works of Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Ondaatje, Jamaica Kincaid, and J.M. Coetzee Google Scholar

Tegla, Emanuela. J. M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Power. Unsettling Complicity, Complacency, and Confession. Leiden and Boston: Brill Rodopi, 2015. Print. J. M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Power. Unsettling Complicity, Complacency, and Confession Google Scholar

Van Bever Donker, Vincent. Recognition & Ethics in World Literature: Religion, Violence, and the Human. Stuttgart: Ibidem-Verlag, 2016. Print. Recognition & Ethics in World Literature: Religion, Violence, and the Human Google Scholar

Vidali, Amy. “Seeing What We Know: Disability and Theories of Metaphor.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4.1 (2010): 33–54. Print. Seeing What We Know: Disability and Theories of Metaphor Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4.1 33 54 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Wojtas, Paweł