Textuality & the land : reading 'White Writing' and the fiction of J.M. Coetzee
This thesis examines the formative fiction of J. M. Coetzee and his first book of essays, White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa (1988). His latest novel Disgrace (1999), has already made literary history, winning Coetzee his second Booker Prize. It certainly invites new readings and links with his earlier work, which I discuss in my Introduction. I have tried to range across Coetzee’s work while heeding the structure that has emerged out of my research: long (sequential) chapters, divided into three or more sections, which discuss issues around the writing and reading of four novels - including the processes of production, publishing and reception in local South African and international terms; questions of intertextuality, authorship and colonial representations of the South African landscape - before finally closing with a reading of each novel. My scope thus more widely looks at textual proliferations, comparative ‘colonial encounters’, the imaging of the land, and what Coetzee has called the ‘Discourse of the Cape’. While the chapters on ‘The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee’ in Dusklands (1974), In the Heart of the Country (1977) and Foe (1986) focus on colonial discourse and colonial space (on explorer narratives and travel writing, on gender and the genre of colonial pastoral), the chapter on Coetzee's 1983 Booker Prize-winner Life & Times of Michael K, like Disgrace, encompasses a more contemporary Cape landscape. Here I discuss Coetzee’s notion of the ‘provincial’ in the context of debates on the ‘national’ and ‘postcolonial’ novel in South Africa. The final chapter on Foe equally offers a balance to the South African emphasis of my thesis by looking back more broadly to British imperialism and a canon of colonial texts - from castaway and captivity narratives to the journals of Columbus, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the novels of Defoe.