Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
This paper examines the relationships of metafiction with race, gender, animals, and genre in J.M. Coetzee‰Ûªs novels Disgrace and Elizabeth Costello. Contrasting Coetzee‰Ûªs work with that of social realists, I argue that Coetzee uses metafiction to delineate his vision of an ethical novel. Coetzee‰Ûªs metafictional elements pose the question of whether the act of representation is inherently hegemonic, and then complicate that question by asking whether the novel must be either a hegemonic force (a colonizer) or a victim of hegemony (a colonized form). The first chapter concerns the relationships of the protagonists of these two works with the minor characters. David Lurie renders the people in his life as abstract Others in order to transform them into minor characters within the narrative of his life, rather than acknowledging their full personhood. Elizabeth Costello considers the dangers of exoticizing the Other, but is so focused on the realm of the written that she fails to live her own life, and so bent on criticizing exoticism that she ignores the possibility that she is guilty of Othering. The second chapter posits that David and Costello also Other non-human animals in their representations, and that Coetzee problematically suggests that the act of representing animals is inevitably a form of domination. The third chapter examines the relationship of metafiction with genre in Coetzee‰Ûªs novels, arguing that Coetzee uses metafiction to show that novels create meaning in a way distinct from historical or philosophical discourse, and that these discourses are threatening to colonize the novel. I conclude that Coetzee asserts the independence of the novel genre from these other discourses and champions the novel‰Ûªs particular way of making meaning, but also cautions that an ethical novel must acknowledge the inherent subjectivity of representation, rather than seeking to fully explain the Other, which would inevitably reduce the Other to an abstraction.
Stanley, Brooke, "Decolonizing Representation through Metafiction in J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace and Elizabeth Costello" (2012). Honors Theses. 60.