Chapter

Coda: Dark Freedom in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace

Kevin Newmark

in Irony on Occasion

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780823240128
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823240166 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823240128.003.0013
Coda: Dark Freedom in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace

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Can contemporary fiction be read simultaneously as socio-political act and as reflective thought, as both empirical reality and philosophical speculation? A good example of a novel situating itself within this uneasy convergence of theory and action is Coetzee's Disgrace. The explicit theme concerns the referential history of post-apartheid S. Africa, but the fiction also stages an allegory of aesthetic judgment confronting its own status as a bridge between knowledge and freedom. Rather than confirm the reliability of its power to mediate between cognition and action, the literary text bears witness to its lack of authority in joining the two. Disgrace involves the exposure of a mysterious blank precisely at the point where an articulation between history and reflection should be found. This typographical dash inscribes an ironic resistance to any attempt at compelling literary fictions to say all they know or to know fully what they can from now on do.

Keywords: Fiction; Action; Thought; J.M. Coetzee; Disgrace; Knowledge; Freedom; Authority; Blank; Articulation; Ironic resistance

Chapter.  7292 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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