Chapter

‘Redemption’ or ‘Delegitimization’? The Artist on Trial in <i>The Master of Petersburg</i>

Patrick Hayes

in J.M. Coetzee and the Novel

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199587957
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723292 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587957.003.0007

Series: Oxford English Monographs

‘Redemption’ or ‘Delegitimization’? The Artist on Trial in The Master of Petersburg

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What, if anything, guarantees that literature is serious? How, for instance, can we be sure that the representation of the erotic in a work of literature offers us more than the kinds of objectification that characterize pornography? Or that the representation of politics offers us more than a work of propaganda? This chapter argues that in his portrait of the artist Coetzee refuses to accept any account of literary seriousness grounded in notions of aesthetic distance, privileged relation to the truth, or access to higher values, and that his interest lies instead in portraying the literary as an equivocal and even marginal kind of discourse that emerges only in an unsettling way from a deeply compromised position of weakness. It shows that Coetzee's thinking on this subject is informed by a profound exploration of Dostoevsky's late fiction—in particular The Devils and The Brothers Karamazov.

Keywords: literary seriousness; erotic; objectification; pornography; propaganda; Dostoevsky; The Devils; The Brothers Karamazov

Chapter.  10983 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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