Acts of Visitation.
The Narrative of J.M. Coetzee.
López, María J.
Amsterdam/New York, NY, 2011, XXVII, 344 pp.
Cross/Cultures - Readings in the Post/Colonial Literatures in English 140
This study traces, in J.M. Coetzee’s fictional and non-fictional production, an imaginative and intellectual masterplot deriving from Coetzee’s perception of European presence in (South) Africa as having its origin in an act of illegitimate penetration and fraudulent visitation. In Coetzee’s novels, the historical and political problem of a hostile occupation and unfair distribution of the land finds a correspondence in the domestic space of house and farm, and the uneasy cohabitation of its occupants, along with the relation between hosts and guests. The seminal dimension of the categories of penetration and visitation is highlighted, as these are shown to operate not only on a spatial level but also on an epistemological, physical, psychological, hermeneutic, metafictional and ethical one: we encounter literary and psychological secrets that resist decipherment, bodies that cannot be penetrated, writers depicted as intruders, parents that ask to be welcomed by their children.
This study also identifies, in Coetzee’s narrative, an ethical proposal grounded on a logic of excess and unconditionality – a logic of ‘not enough’ – lying behind certain acts of hospitality, friendship, kindness, care, and guidance to the gate of death, acts that may transform prevailing unequal socio-historical conditions and hostile personal relationships, characterized by a logic of parasitism and intrusion. As the figure of the writer progressively gains explicit prominence in Coetzee’s literary production, special attention will be paid to it, as it alternately appears as secretary and master, migrant and intruder, pervert and foe, citizen and neighbour. Overall, Acts of Visitation analyzes how Coetzee’s works depict the (South) African land, the Karoo farm, the familial household or the writer’s and literary character’s house as simultaneously contending and redemptive sites in which urgent historical, ethical, and metafictional issues are spatially explored and dramatized.
Table of Contents
Critical Appropriations and Hermeneutic Resistance
Part 1: Penetration and Visitation in South Africa
Penetration: Dusklands and In the Heart of the Country
Resistance: Waiting for the Barbarians
Parasitism: Life & Times of Michael K and Age of Iron
Part 2: The Writer as Host and Guest
(Un)belonging: Boyhood, Youth and Summertime
Intrusion: The Master of Petersburg and Slow Man
Fidelities: Elizabeth Costello and Diary of a Bad Year
María J. López is a Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Córdoba, Spain. She has written on Virginia Woolf, Patrick White, Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, and Zoë Wicomb. Her current research interests focus on exploration narratives, forms of community in contemporary South African literature, and the (anti)pastoral tradition in the South African novel in English.