Embedded subjectivity in the work of J.M. Coetzee

Smuts, Merriman Eckard (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2007-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis is the result of an immersion in the work of J.M. Coetzee. I have taken various of Coetzee’s novels, namely Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons, Disgrace, The Master of Petersburg, Foe, Life & Times of Michael K and Slow Man, and constructed readings of these novels from the inside out. The overarching concern of the dissertation is the notion of subjectivity and Coetzee’s methods of representing subjectivity. It is my contestation that the experience of authentic subjective awareness arises from the process of reading itself. It is not a state of being that is described by the text, but rather a layered constellation of substitutive exchanges that emerges from the process of textual relation. The notion of embeddedness serves as a description of the way in which the text materializes this experience of subjectivity. The structure of exploration in each chapter has taken as its paradigm a conceptual concern arising from the text itself. In the first chapter (Elizabeth Costello) the concern is with structure itself. The character of Elizabeth struggles against the limitation inherent in the process of representation; this struggle is read as an indication of authentic subjective experience in the face of reduction to a system of codes. The second chapter (Disgrace) attempts to formulate the dynamic of subjective awareness in romantic terms. I construct a reading of Lurie’s predicament in terms that arise from his conceptual environment, in order to indicate the primacy of textual materiality as the locus of subjective awareness. The notion of the classic informs the third chapter (The Master of Petersburg). I use an essay by Coetzee to delineate a conception of the classic, which is then applied as a theoretical framework for an exploration of Dostoevsky’s pursuit of his stepson. The fourth and last chapter (Foe, Life & Times of Michael K and Slow Man) focuses on Coetzee’s use of the body as a figure for embedded subjectivity. It emerges that the body as a trope of embeddedness forms an important aspect of Coetzee’s work throughout his career. As such it is a very suitable figure for describing the dynamics of embeddedness as a mode of representation that aligns itself with the textual materiality of subjective being.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis het ontstaan as die gevolg van ‘n noukeurige ondersoek na die werk van J.M. Coetzee. Ek het myself laat begelei deur die inhoud van verskeie van Coetzee se boeke, naamlik Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons, Disgrace, The Master of Petersburg, Foe, Life & Times of Michael K en Slow Man, om intensiewe lesings van hierdie boeke te konstrueer. Die oorkoepelende bemoeienis van die verhandeling is die konsep van subjektiwiteit en Coetzee se metodes van subjektiewe voorstelling. Ek beweer dat die ervaring van outentieke subjektiewe gewaarwording gesetel is in die leesproses. Dit is nie ‘n toestand van wese wat deur die teks beskryf word nie, maar eerder ‘n verweefde raamwerk van substituwe wisseling wat kom uit die proses van tekstuele relasie. Die konsep van inlywing (“embeddedness”) dien as 'n beskrywing van die manier waarop die teks hierdie ervaring van subjektiwiteit konkretiseer. Die struktuur van ondersoek in elke hoofstuk neem as paradigma 'n konsepsuele vraagstuk wat reeds gesetel is in die teks. In die eerste hoofstuk (Elizabeth Costello) is die bemoeienis met struktuur as sodanig. Elizabeth se karakter stry teen die inperking wat noodwending saamgaan met die proses van voorstelling; hierdie stryd word gelees as 'n aanduiding van outentieke subjektiewe ervaring teenoor die druk van vermindering tot 'n stel kodes. Die tweede hoofstuk (Disgrace) poog om die dinamiek van subjektiewe bewustheid te formuleer in terme wat afkomstig is van die romantiek. Ek konstrueer 'n lees van Lurie se toestand in terme wat kom van sy konsepsuele omgewing, om sodoende die voorrang van tekstuele materialiteit as die lokus van outentieke subjektiwiteit aan te dui. Die konsep van die klassieke belig die derde hoofstuk (The Master of Petersburg). Ek gebruik 'n essay van Coetzee om 'n begrip van die klassieke te formuleer, wat dan toegepas word as 'n teoretiese raamwerk waarbinne Dostoevsky se soeke na sy stiefseun ondersoek word. Die vierde en laaste hoofstuk (Foe, Life & Times of Michael K en Slow Man) fokus op Coetzee se gebruik van die liggaam as 'n figuur vir ingelyfde subjektiwiteit. Dit blyk dat die liggaam as 'n figuur van inlywing 'n prominente aspek van Coetzee se werk vorm deur sy loopbaan. As sodaning is dit 'n baie handige figuur om die dinamiek van inlywing te beskryf as 'n modus van voorstelling wat sigself koppel aan die materialiteit van die teks.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/18698
This item appears in the following collections: