The Body and Allegory in Coetzee's Early Fiction

Powerful Essays
The body and allegory in Coetzee’s early fiction

Introduction

One can definitely state that the body is one of Coetzee’s big themes, for it is omnipresent in his work. In his early fiction the body presents itself in many various ways in both Dusklands, In the Heart of the Country, Waiting for the Barbarians and Life & Times of Michael K.
I will discuss these bodies and place them in a broader context, since Coetzee’s early fiction is highly allegorical. I will also show how different themes are approached through the author’s treatment of the body and how the body is used to make innovative statements about the human condition.

The body according to Coetzee

Coetzee says that « Whatever else, the body is not ‘that which is not’ » 1.
This characterization means that it might be hard to distinguish what the body is, but there is no question whether the body is. The body in Coetzee is a force in its own right. For Coetzee the body is not in itself so insignificant that it may be used merely as a means of characterizing something else. Especially in Waiting for the Barbarians, Coetzee attacks the long Western tradition of transcendent vision and askesis, a tradition that deals with the body masterfully : either as an obstacle or as a means. But according to Coetzee the body is an independent force that claims its own authority. Always, the body is just there, not meaning or expressing anything else. Bodies signify nothing but themselves.

The characteristic all the Coetzeean bodies have in common is their strangeness ; there is always something unusual about them. It seems as if they are unable to assimilate with the text and therefore draw the attention of the reader. The Coetzeean subject is always a site of conflict between the narrative subject and the implied narrator. The narrative subject corresponds to the body, but the implied narrator to the mind. Through this dissonance the body becomes ‘strange’, even ‘the stranger’ or ‘the other’



Bibliography: Primary literature Coetzee, J.M. Dusklands. London : Vintage, 1998. Coetzee, J.M. In the Heart of the Country. London : Vintage Books, 1999. Coetzee, J.M. Waiting for the Barbarians. London : Vintage Books, 2000. Coetzee, J.M. Life & Times of Michael K. London : Vintage Books, 1998. Secondary literature Attwell, David, ed. « Autobiography and Confession : Interview ». Doubling the Point : Essays and Interviews. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1992. Brooks, Peter. Body Work : Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1993. Hughes, Conrad Lawrence Marquard, The treatment of the body in the fiction of JM Coetzee, http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10539/5764/The%20Treatment%20of%20the%20Body%20in%20the%20Fiction%20of%20JM%20Coetzee%202008.pdf?sequence=2 May, Brian. « J.M. Coetzee and the Question of the Body. » Modern Fiction Studies 47.2, 2001. p 391 - 420.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Powerful Essays

    J.M Coetzee's "The Harms of Pornography" As the debate over pornography and its place in society grows hotter every day, several authors in particular shed a new light on the subject. Both their intuition and insight involving their beliefs can help the reader a great deal in seeing aspects of this debate that might have otherwise gone without the consideration that they so deserve. I believe that pornography is not only okay, but is allowing our country to take a step back and ask ourselves…

    • 1918 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    In Waiting for the Barbarians, the line that divides the so called ‘civilized’ from the ‘barbarians’ is shown as deeply ambivalent. Illustrate this with examples and discuss the larger implications of this portrayal. J.M. Coetzee unravels the complexities behind the concepts of ‘civilised’ versus ‘barbaric’ in his book Waiting for the Barbarians. These concepts are reflective of the larger ideas of “Self” and “Other”, and are shown to be problematic in its definition. In the novel, the ever present…

    • 1498 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Allegory Criticism

    • 615 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Allegory Criticism: Essay #3 Da’Andrea Bell Allegory criticism is an extended metaphor in which a person, abstract idea or event stands for itself and for something else. Usually involves moral or spiritual concepts which are more significant than the actual narrative. In the fiction reading, “The man In the Black Suit” by Stephen King, the main character Gary a young boy at the age of nine has found himself coming face to face with someone he believes is the devil. While out for a day of…

    • 615 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Allegory of Fortune

    • 550 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Allegory of Fortune For such a beautiful piece with such soft lighting and rich color, Salvator Rosa’s Allegory of Fortune hardly seems like something created out of anger. A beautiful woman, wrapped in a golden cloth is shown feeding an assortment of animals. There is little in the painting that evokes the sort of emotion in the viewer that Rosa put into the painting; only after applying knowledge of symbolism does the viewer see Rosa’s angry, shaking fist. Completed in 1659, Allegory of Fortune…

    • 550 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    fiction

    • 378 Words
    • 1 Page

    Nofisat Akanmu Susan Hirst ENG 1001 April 27, 2014 Test 1 Fiction 1. In the stories “A&P”, “Araby” and “My Oedipus Complex” the author used child/teenager voices to make the story more relatable to young readers. The use of child/teenager emphasizes their impulsive crave for attention. Children and Teenagers often can’t control their emotions and act o impulse. In all three stories the narrators tried to catch the attention of a female, in “A&P” the narrator “Sammy” needs the attention of the…

    • 378 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Allegory

    • 554 Words
    • 3 Pages

    A. Loren Eiseley begins his essay sitting in his office, having gratefulness for water. 1. He believes water is magical and contains life. 2. He explains his amazement of the water beetle and the green algae that grows in rain puddles on the rooftop. 3. He describes the possibility to experience the escape of being confined in skin. 4. The opportunity to be submerged and be one with the water. 5. Many years ago, he experiences this opportunity in a remote western country on the Platte River…

    • 554 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    The Allegory Of The Cave

    • 575 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Plato proposes in his philosophy The Allegory of the Cave that most people are bound to their obliviousness and materialism, either by willful rejection or ignorance, which in turn makes them metaphorically blind to the true nature of reality. For instance, the people chained within the dark cave is a symbol for the world we currently reside in (or was resided in), and the chains represent each one of us, who are either knowingly or unknowingly chained to the material world. The shadows the cave…

    • 575 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Allegory Examples

    • 308 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Allegory In the classic novel ‘Lord of the Flies’ Golding makes use of various writing techniques throughout the plot of his novel to communicate his ideas without expressing them directly to his readers. Allegory is one of the three main literary devices Golding uses throughout his novel by utilizing themes and motifs to put together a story that allows for deeper interpretation. Golding uses different types of allegory. One example of allegory described in ‘Lord of the Flies’ is biblical allegory…

    • 308 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    The Allegory of the Cave

    • 424 Words
    • 2 Pages

    The Allegory of the Cave How does Plato’s allegory represents the activity of philosophy? 9/23/2010 HZT4Ua Diana MS. The Allegory of the Cave The Allegory of the Cave is a metaphor that can be seen to describe many aspects and situations in life that one had no control or choice over. The reason Plato uses many metaphors in his allegory is to think or ‘philosophize’ about the world around us because in fact our understanding of the world is very limited. This is due to the fact that…

    • 424 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Allegory Holocaust

    • 604 Words
    • 3 Pages

    For my final holocaust project I decided to do an allegory. My allegory is based on the idea that during the holocaust people didn’t stand up for the Jewish people and others that were being discriminated against. Because of their bystander qualities Hitler became stronger and stronger. When all we had to do was stand together at the first sign of evil and face him head on. I selected to do the allegory, not at first but after some time. At first I wanted to do a scrapbook but that required a lot…

    • 604 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays