A history of confession : the dialogue between cynicism and grace in selected novels of J.M. Coetzee.

Hornby , Catherine Muriel (2001) A history of confession : the dialogue between cynicism and grace in selected novels of J.M. Coetzee. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




In introducing the four novels under discussion as a “History of Confession”, this study explores the resistance to the dominant discourse of ‘history’ offered by the sustained confessions of individuals. In examining Coetzee’s oeuvre it is possible to delineate the outline of a dialogue between cynicism and grace, and the effects of these on the process of confession in each of the works Chapter One, dealing with Age of Iron, draws on Levinas’ theory of ‘the Other’ in order to elucidate the role played by the interlocutor or confessor in the process of confession.The recognition of the passage of the self through the Other is integral to the attainment of a state of grace, without which confession cannot be brought to an end The countermanding claims of the writer's will-to-write and duty to society are illuminated as a source of cynicism which overwhelms the intervention of grace. The Master of Petersburg, discussed in Chapter Two, is a confession of the guilt and despair faced by the writer who sacrifices his soul to answer the urge to write. Chapter Three, which examines Coetzee’s excursion into autobiography, represents a continuation of the confessional trend. The distance between the narrator and protagonist of Boyhood illustrates the convolutions of self-deception in the process of confession. The chapter which deals with Disgrace identifies a new trend in Coetzee’s writing:the concern with animals. Levinas’ theory, which identifies the encounter with the Other as necessary to precipitate an intervention of grace, is again useful in explaining how Coetzee has postulated the unassimilable otherness of animals as primary to human ethical development. This chapter also concludes that Disgrace represents a high point in the recovery of both grace and agency in Coetzee’s oeuvre.The concluding chapter suggests that the accumulation of meanings to the term ‘grace’enables its definition as a semi-religious abstraction. Coetzee suggests that belief in its existence has the power to affect interactions on the physical plane, especially those between the self and the Other.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:J.M. Coetzee,1940-, Cynicism in literature, Grace (Theology) in literature
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > English
ID Code:2197
Deposited By: Madireng Monyela
Deposited On:08 Nov 2011 10:30
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:22
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