Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature : J.M. Coetzee: Art, Ethics & Biopolitics

Course Number: ENGL 234
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 234
Quarter: Spring 2011
Instructor: Samolsky, Russell
Day(s): R
Time: 5:00 PM - 7:50 PM
Location: SH 2714

Content of the course will vary from quarter to quarter and these courses may be repeated for credit with consent of the chair of the departmental graduate committee.
This seminar proposes to work through Coetzee's texts in relation to the contemporary turn to ethics and biopolitics. Indeed, it is in such a context that we can read Gayatri Spivak's recent statement that she has “often felt that the formal logic of Coetzee's fiction mimes ethical moves in an uncanny way.” While Coetzee's writings have been most often situated in terms of postcolonial discourse (an engagement that we shall not altogether forgo), his texts also resonate powerfully with the questions that motivate contemporary theory. How, for example, might Waiting for the Barbarians be read in terms of the revelation of sanctioned torture at Abu Ghraib prison? What might this allegory forged in the context of late apartheid still have to teach us about “ the law,” states of exception, and the terror of the war on terror? What intersections might we draw between Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer, bare life, and The Life and Times of Michael K? And what relation might be drawn between the emergence of the work of art in Disgrace and Jacques Derrida's thought on the event, the arrivant, responsibility, and the question of the animal? These are some of the questions that we shall pose in a seminar that focuses principally on Coetzee's novels but also addresses his autobiographical and critical writings. Moving from an engagement with the Coetzee of late apartheid to the Coetzee of post-apartheid, readings will also include theoretical texts by Agamben, Spivak, Antjie Krog, Derrida, Derek Attridge, and Alain Badiou.