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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................1 I. INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................2 II. THE THEORIES OF INTERTEXTUALITY................................................................6 III. MAGDA AND THE WESTERN LITERARY HERITAGE.......................................17 IV. PARODY IN FOE...................................................................................................33 V. DISGRACE AND THE ROMANTIC POETS..........................................................48 VI. CONCLUSION.......................................................................................................54 WORKS CITED...........................................................................................................58
Acknowledgments Once again I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my teacher and supervisor Dr. Paul Franssen for his assistance, kindness, valuable advice, constructive criticism and his continuous encouragement in order to bring this work to a better conclusion than it would otherwise have been. My sincere thanks go also to Dr. Ton Hoenselaars for accepting to read and comment on this work.
My special thanks go to Loes Vleeming for being generous and passionate with me these years. Last but not least I would like to thank my father for all he did for me and to whose soul I dedicate this humble paper.
I. Introduction The concept of intertextuality, which emerged during the 1960s, is one of the principal critical tools in literary criticism. Its purpose is to explain the process that makes any text to be read as an assimilation and transformation of another text or group of other texts. For Julia Kristeva, “each word (text) is an intersection of words (texts) where at least one other word (text) can be read. Any text […] is constructed as a mosaic of quotations, any text is the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of
intersubjectivity, and a poetic language is read as at least double” (Kristeva quoted in Friedman 147). One has to agree with Kristeva’s definition of intertextuality which considers every writing as a major form of inter-art or intertext. In this respect, any work of art does not emerge from nothingness, but rather interacts with, rewrites or parodies other texts. The works of J. M. Coetzee provide an example of this complex phenomenon of intertextuality as defined by Kristeva. In his novels, Coetzee cites, refers to and alludes to, implicitly and explicitly, other texts, thereby creating a sort of dialectic relationship between his texts and his sources. In the Heart of the Country (1977), for instance, reveals Coetzee’s strategy of intertextuality. The very idea behind Coetzee’s use of intertextual references is to establish a sort of affinity between the conditions of his characters and his source texts, so as to uncover women’s and racial others’ oppression by questioning the structures of power. The novel attempts to create a dialogue between the female protagonist, Magda, and “another outside the self with whom a dialogue must be established in order to create a saving plurivocity” (Durrant 59). In the text, we actually find various direct and indirect hints to the Bible, Freud, Lacan, French theorists, Greek mythology, all of which have to do with Magda’s psychological disorder and weak position as a woman in male dominated society. To put it in Head’s words, “the construction of Magda is ultimately a textual problem, in the sense that she is shown to be the product of different textual influences. Her narrative is peppered with quotations from, or allusions to, many important figures in modern Western literature and philosophy, including Blake, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Freud, Kafka, Sartre and Beckett” (59). Intertextuality is more than the presence of a text in another text. It is in fact, like parody, “one of the major forms of modern self-reflexivity; it is a form of inter-art discourse” (Hutcheon, A Theory 2). In his essay “Game Hunting in In the Heart of the Country,” Ian Glenn tries to draw a link between Coetzee and his protagonist, Magda. Unlike most of
the novel’s protagonist and a university teacher. M. Penner. Like In the Heart of the Country and Foe. Coetzee’s eighth novel. Glenn reads the character of Magda not as an embodiment of a typical Afrikaner female. the European self and the racial other. Hegel. or an echo. the “implied author’s” to be more precise. David Lurie. Unlike Magda. nor as an insane colonial spinster. He asserts that the style she uses “takes on the effect of school essay or literary exercise on a set topic (the New Wife) that comes out overburdened by descriptives and similes” (Glenn 124). J. who seems to be unaware of the fact that she is quoting from the Bible. but also to the whole of the discursive field within which such a text operated and continues to operate in post-colonial worlds” (98). is fully aware of his sources and the kind of relationship that he shares with them. Disgrace (1999). He argues that Magda’s story. especially Byron and Wordsworth. so as to subvert the text for postcolonial and postmodern purposes.Coetzee’s critics. In other words. J. is not only intertextually related with other novels and works. Blake and others. is an allegory. is a novel which retells Daniel Defoe’s eighteenth-century classic Robinson Crusoe (1719) from the perspective of a female persona called Susan Barton. in some respects. but rather as self-reflexive. but also reacts against them. Coetzee employs a radical departure from the original text. Robinson Crusoe. David Lurie’s relationship with the Romantic poets is not that of 4 . gender and colonial position. concerning important issues. Dodd and others. The most important borrowings are those from the English Romantic poets. Coetzee’s Foe (1986). Foe is a perfect example of postcolonial texts that foreground a cultural conflict and put into question the very relationship between the centre and the periphery. M. She argues that Foe succeeds not only “to write back […] to an English canonical text. To illustrate this point. of Coetzee’s own position. Glenn points out that Magda’s early fragments are not well structured as if she were a neophyte authoress. such as Gallager. the coloniser and the colonised. According to Helen Tiffin. such as that of class.
fFour issues will be highlighted. M. being a woman in a male society. he must say. Lurie. will be central to this chapter. especially towards the end of the novel. In this respect. Coetzee’s works.show that Magda’s problems are intimately linked with her gender. Magda’s big challenge in the novel is to question society’s power structure and the various forms of male oriented systems of manipulation As for “Magda and the 5 .” I will try to throw light on the concept of intertextuality and its different forms. life and history: “Having published three books of criticism. some of which are to establish a dialogue between his works and those from the major Western and Eastern literatures as well as reacting against them. I will also discuss in detail the theory of parody as developed by Linda Hutcheon.borrowing words to convey his message or support his ideas. occasionally reacts against his sources. guided him well” (Coetzee. Age 5). (c) the Function of Parody in Foe. but of influence to the extent that he identifies himself with them and adopts their views towards women. Lurie is seized—several years before the novel opens—by the idea of writing a musical work based on the life of a poet with whom he identifies (an identification that is hardly surprising given his history of sexual adventuring): ‘Byron in Italy’: a meditation on love between the sexes in the form of a chamber opera” (Attridge. like Julia Kristeva and others. Disgrace 179). desire. In this MA research project. however. Who have not. and (d) Disgrace and the Romantic Poets. focusing more particularly on his novels: In the Heart of the Country. In “Theories of Intertextuality. The theories of intertextuality and parody will form the theoretical material on which I will rely in my analysis and discussion. namely (a) the Theories of Intertextuality. I will discuss the strategy of intertextuality in J. when he admits that they were bad guides: “So much for the poets. (b) Magda and the Western Literary Heritage. The achievements of the French theoreticians. so much for the dead masters. I will also try to show that Coetzee’s use of intertextuality serves many purposes. Foe and Disgrace.
” .” focuses on the relationship between the novel’s protagonist. examine how theBy the “Function of Parody in Foe” is meant that Coetzee’s choice to rework Defoe’s text is to exploit the tension between the centre and the margin. the representation of the racial other. especially Lord Byron and William Wordsworth. The Theories of Intertextuality Since its emergence in the 1960s. by challenging the primacy of the Western standards that assume universality and reversing the function of the original text so that what is true becomes false and what is false becomes true and so on. David Lurie. The fourth and the last chapter entitled “Disgrace and the Romantic Poets. there I will try to find an affinity between Magda’s situation and the sources she cites or quotes from. intertextuality has increasingly become influential and important in the field of literary criticism.Western Literary Heritage. and the Romantic poets. The strategies which intertextuality has developed during the last fifty years have helped in reading literary texts in relation with other texts or 6 . II.
however. le Roman” (Word. “Le Texte Clos” (The Bounded Text) — first published in 1967 — Julia Kristeva provided a complete definition of the term as “an intersection of textual surfaces rather than a point (a fixed meaning). intertextuality appeared officially among literary terms due to the publication of two influential books. The term intertextuality occurred for the first time in one of the book’s articles. as a dialogue among several writings” (Kristeva quoted in Friedman 147). The concept of intertextuality. Novel) — this article was published first in 1966 — where she introduced the Russian theoretician and critic Mikhail Bakhtin to the French public. Kristeva’s familiarity with the Russian language and culture. The first of these books was written by Julia Kristeva. In another article of the Book.groups of other texts. She derives the idea for her definition of the term from the works of Bakhtin: “Le mot (le texte) est un croisement de mots (de textes) où on lit au moins un autre mot (texte) […] tout texte se construit comme une mosaïque de citations. Dialogue. This relation is generally characterised by transforming and reworking some features of the original text(s) to create special effects or serve certain purposes. Séméiotike: Recherches pour une Sémanalyse (1969). founded in 1960. It might be difficult to separate intertextuality in its beginning from the theoretical achievements of the Tel Quel group and the journal having the same title. le Dialogue. helped her to develop the theoretical foundations of intertextuality. as a Bulgarian living in France. Kristeva’s development of the concept of intertextuality owes much to the achievements of Mikhail Bakhtin. “Le Mot. tout texte est absorption et transformation d’un autre texte” (each word (text) is an intersection of words (texts) where at least one other 7 . raised a large debate and it did not become widely accepted until it had been formulated many times. In the golden period of Tel Quel (196669). in which she studied the instance of the grotesque novel Petit Jehn de Sainte for the sake of fixing what must be understood about intertextuality.
differences and traces of traces” (Derrida 26). but rather interrelated and involved in a dialogue with other texts. Textuality. this textile. Of Grammatology (1967).” the other component. No concept has given rise to so much discussion among modern literary critics as that of intertextuality. Any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations. For them. Nothing. the typical system which designs its rules and to which it belongs. nor even reference to a reality existing outside the literary system itself” (Abrams. “textuality. and in Friedman 147). This interweaving. signifier and signified.” needs an elaborate explanation. any text is the absorption and transformation of another) (Kristeva quoted in Samoyault 9. Understandably. This interweaving results in each ‘element’ … being constituted on the basis of the trace within it of other elements of the chain or system. a text is not a closed system. textuality is often connected with the French Structuralists. These factors may generate an illusion of reality. 8 . then. in which he investigated Ferdinand de Saussure’s foundational concepts of semiotics. means that the literary text is a closed signifying system which can only be analysed and interpreted in the light of its relation with the structural system of language. everywhere.word (text) can be read. but have no truthvalue. is the text produced only in the transformation of another text. The basic premise of Derrida’s notion of intertextuality is that “no element can function as a sign without referring to another element which itself is not simply present. textuality is “a mode of writing constituted by a play of component elements according to specifically literary conventions and codes. Glossary 301). There are only. but an infinite network of codes that makes it to be meaningful. … is anywhere ever simply present or absent. Whereas the prefix “inter” of intertextuality can be easily defined as “between. The second book bears the signature of Jacques Derrida’s. Differently put. In literary theory. the multiple ways that link a text with other text(s) is not a matter of influence. in short.
but rather about the dialogical dimension of the word and the text.Intertextuality. This means that there is no text which exists in isolation. considers the literary work not as a closed network. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture…the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior. This account of words as dialogic assumes that they must be examined and interpreted as elements of this dialogue (it is important to 9 . none of them original. its words only explainable through other words. the reader obtains an important position. however. The text appears then as the space of exchange between multiple voices or discourses conditioned by the different social institutions of the community. and so on indefinitely. but texts are intertextually related with each other. Bakhtin did not use the term intertextuality. To put it in Roland Barthes’ words: We know that the text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning ( ‘the message’ of the author-God) but a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings. In this intertextual process. For Bakhtin. in such a way as never to rest on any one of them. Bakhtin argues that “every word is directed toward an answer and cannot escape the profound influence of the answering word that it anticipates” (Bakhtin quoted in Clayton 18). he ought at least to know that the inner ‘thing’ he thinks to ‘translate’ is only a readyformed dictionary. but his different studies helped in introducing the idea of the multiplicity of discourses transmitted through words. every text is engaged in a dialogue with other texts. His only power is to mix writings. blend and clash. Bakhtin does not speak here about intertextuality. never original. but as an open product which contains traces of other texts. In his works. for he or she comes to the text with his or her horizon of expectations formed by his or her earlier readings. to counter the ones with the others. Did he wish to express himself. (Barthes quoted in Allen 13) The origins of intertextuality lie in the theories and philosophies of Mikhail Bakhtin.
like Derrida. The literary text. debauchery. Kristeva’s two early articles. With these critics. “The Bounded Text” and “Word. orifices. intertextuality took a more complex dimension than Bakhtin’s simple form of the carnival or the grotesque. Dialogue. resembles the carnival celebrations where the state authorities and the social institutions are mocked and ridiculed. This complex comparison between carnival and literary modes manifests itself in their tendencies to mingle everything together: the low culture with the high as well as the official discourse with the unofficial one. Novel” published later together in Séméiotike. The Carnivalesque or Carnival proposed also by Bakhtin is another concept which allowed Kristeva and others to elaborate their views about intertextuality. especially the political and the religious. drunkenness and promiscuity are all ‘carnivalesque’ images” (Allen 22). the most important of which is the “open-endedness” of the text. These carnivalesque images seem to devalue the official discourse. Now we need to turn to the concept of intertextuality as practiced and defined by Julia Kristeva and other proponents of Deconstruction. complete each other in showing the impact of Bakhtin on Kristeva and the way in which she read his works and 10 . The notion of the text as an open carnival implies that a text does not stand on its own. Bakhtin tries to investigate “the manner in which ancient traditions of the carnival act as a centrifugal force promoting ‘unofficial’ dimensions of society and human life and does so through a profane language and drama of ‘the lower bodily stratum’: images of huge bodies. Bakhtin argues. In his study on Rabelais. but echoes other texts and is governed by the social organisations of the participants. bloated stomachs.note here that dialogue for Bakhtin does not mean literally the conversation between characters in the novel). Bloom and Riddle. in favour of the unofficial one. Barthes. The philosophy of Bakhtin is based on three principles. This idea of the open-endedness of the text became the essence of the literary theory known as Deconstruction.
Derrida does not speak here about citing or quoting. but intersect with each other since they originate from the same textual and cultural material and conditions. For him. intersect and neutralise one another” (Allen 34). Kristeva believes that texts are culturally and ideologically conditioned. In her article “The Bounded Text. for everything that an author creates originates from his or her previous readings. in its essence. texts do not exist in isolation. Both Bakhtin and Kristeva share the same views about the strong affinity between the text and its cultural and ideological context. therefore. Yet.” Kristeva studied the way in which texts come to be seen as constructions of other pre-existing texts or discourses. a pure text does not exist. for instance. in this sense. the literary text contains no origins and no boundaries because meaning and language have no beginning and no end.developed his ideas. The importance of his theories can be seen in their tendencies to give a broader dimension to textual analysis. According to her. becomes a “permutation of texts. his argument that intertextuality means that any word the text presents has already been used in another text or context is arguable.… to no signified. taken from other texts. are seen as a complex network which contains beneath its surface power relations. The new text. Like Bakhtin. ideological structures and translingual relations. and would no longer itself function as a signifier” (Allen 32). 11 . Derrida argues that there is no final reading of a text since every reading brings about another reading and so on. No doubt the achievements of Derrida in the field of intertextuality and literary theory at large are interesting and revolutionary. prose sentences or lines of poetry. This open-endedness of reading (of the text boundaries as well) which he called the “transcendental signified” refers “in and of itself. Texts. would exceed the chain of signs. an intertextuality in the space of a given text in which several utterances. In this respect. Jacques Derrida is another literary philosopher whose achievements have helped in establishing the concept of intertextuality.
“instead the conscious ‘self’ is declared to be a construct that is itself the product of the workings of the linguistic system. every word embodies and renews a potential for being cited on each occasion that it is pronounced or written.but words which have been utilised before. In effect this means that every text is an intertext. the Derridean notion of citation meets the broader theory of intertextuality. possessing its own intertextual history. The lines of itertextuality. when multiplied in correlation with citability. our fake formula is useless. The appearance of a word extends and reactivates a history. and rules of combination gets precipitated into a particular text” (Abrams. the situation does not differ that much from that of Derrida. It is true that by postulating this extreme form of intertextuality. ‘always-already’ existing system of literary language. but had inherited as others did. Barthes reduces the role of the author merely to a user of an already existing linguistic system which s/he did not invent. The dream image of an immense cosmic network only hints at the proper model. (161) With Roland Barthes. but things become definitely absurd and arbitrary as Vincent Leitch points out: Pushed to its extreme. equals the quantity of intertextuality. and the mind of an author is described as an imputed ‘space’ within which the impersonal. The author is no longer seen as the originator and the creator of his own text. To employ any previously used word is to practice ‘citation. codes. Because we cannot determine the history of citation. Every word in a text holds this potential. In his foundational article. conventions. “The Death of the Author” (1968). 12 . Derrida wants to assert the idea of the infinity of intertextuality and interpretation. Glossary 301). Our formula is: the total history of citation (repetition) of each word multiplied by the number of words in a text.’ Since every word in our unabridged dictionaries has always undergone usage. surpass all possibility of representation. Barthes asserts that there is no meaning without intertextuality.
The very notion of resisting and struggling against the influence of the predecessors implies the inevitable presence of the latter in the texts produced by the new poets. He describes the traditional history of poetry as a struggle. In Bloom’s opinion. assimilates. but from a larger linguistic and cultural system. the text becomes the space where multiple voices meet and different writings interact with each other. Thus.For Roland Barthes. citations and indications. Bloom argues that every poet suffers from an anxiety caused by his or her feeling of coming after predecessor poets. These ideas are what led to the death of the author and the birth of intertextuality. re-evaluates and revises the works written by the earlier poets. intertextuality does not refer to the relationship that 13 . The text is seen by Barthes as a disordered dictionary whose words are arranged in a sequence of signs and indications that the author is forced to respect. In his own theory of the Anxiety of Influence. In this sense. Bloom’s version of intertextuality corresponds with his views of the anxiety of influence. This anxiety of influence which characterises the relationship between the new and the old poets is revisionist in the sense that a poet borrows. an (inter)textual embattlement between creative selves or creative persons. Harold Bloom is best known for his linkage between intertextuality and influence. Bloom believes that this process is conducted by poets so as to rise above the anxiety of the predecessors’ influence and their feeling of belatedness. the author functions as a scribe. the author is reduced to a collector and organiser of already-existing forms within a particular linguistic system. an agent who relies on a huge body of inherited knowledge. reinterprets. The individual dimension takes an essential role in Bloom’s theory. Denied the privilege of being the source of the text. the relationship between the poet and his or her literary tradition is labelled as an uneasy and antagonistic one. Barthes expresses that meaning does not originate from the author’s self.
Parody then must “imitate the serious manner and characteristic features of a particular literary work. the text’s use of language. The preceding texts. or original text ever can or did rule over or delimit the historical oscillations at play in texts. disallowing any notion of pure or nonintertextual textuality. or the typical stylistic and other features of a serious literary genre. Glossary 26). but all texts are invaded by other texts. parody has been stretched to cover almost any intertext that is antagonistic to the original. nothing called poet but inter-poets. parody – known also as ironic quotation. In addition to these stylistic features. and deflates the original by applying the imitation to a lowly or comically inappropriate subject” (Abrams. pure. there is no first text. Thus all texts appear doubled: they are uncontrollably permeated with previous texts…. For Riddel. in Riddel’s view. meaning that no first. Actually. The predecessor-texts themselves operate intertextually. rhetoric and themes is the outcome of the preceding text’s influences. for they are related and influenced by other texts and so on.The forces of intertextuality. Bloom claims that there is nothing called poem. (98). but inter-poems. To put it in Leitch’s words: The resident earlier texts open out the present text to an uncontrollable play of historical predecessors. intertextuality took a deconstructive turn. With Joseph Riddel. fundamentally infiltrate the operations of the sign. burlesque or pastiche — refers to the way present representations are derived from past ones by reversing their functions so that what is received as truth becomes fiction and what is fiction becomes truth etc. but rather it is the principle which gives rise to the text. invade the borders of the actual text by transforming it into an intertext.exists between texts. In a word. When a text adopts the characteristics of a specific 14 . or the distinctive style of a particular author. Like intertextuality. these pre-existing texts are in their turn incomplete. Riddel’s theory situates the text within other texts by combining intertextuality together with textuality. Riddel argues.
so as to create an aesthetic distance between the original text and the new one.literary genre or parodies its features. Coetzee 15 . The Politics 89). J. This parodic strategy makes the serious elements of the original become funny and odd. Eventually. The ultimate goal of the subversive strategy of parody is surely not to underestimate the role and the importance of art. This operation dictates the way of reading the text. Susan Barton. is generally described by critics as a parody of Daniel Defoe’s eighteenth-century classic. Parody does not aim to bring these two distinct forms together nor to “wrest past art from its original historical context and reassemble it into some sort of presentist spectacle. Whatever transformation or deformation parody adopts. In all his novels. but rather to give it a different meaning and a new life. imitates. In this sense. Instead. the interpretive and reading process moves to a higher level of interpretation. it keeps a strong link with the original text. problematise and subvert them. alludes. Robinson Crusoe (1917). quotes. In this novel. Coetzee takes a radical departure from Defoe’s account by telling the whole from the perspective of a woman. In Foe. Coetzee cites. parody constitutes a reaction against the classical belief that the artistic creation is unique and original. parody signals how present representations come from past ones and what ideological consequences derive from both continuity and difference” (Hutcheon. Coetzee offer a good example of what I have discussed so far of the concept of intertextuality and its variations. parody takes the authentic characteristics of the original and tries to rework. parodies and engages in a dialectic relationship with other texts from the major Western as well as Eastern literatures. M. The works of J. through a double process of installing and ironizing. parody presents two possibilities of reading and representation: the possibilities offered by the original text and those the parody presents through imitation. M. By doing so. for instance. mainly as an imitation and at the same time an exaggeration of the source text. Coetzee’s Foe (1986).
The use of intertextuality for Coetzee is not a matter of borrowing or lack of inspiration. the novel is involved also in a direct intertextual relationship with Kafka and a number of his works. reconsidering. by taming goats and building shelters (caves/holes). For many critics. Michael K echoes and alludes to Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. but a conscious choice through which he puts into question the power structures and its discourses wherever found. in short. There are also indirect references to other works of Kafka. the “K” of the title is an abridgment of the name Kafka as it can be a borrowing from Kafka’s Das Schloss and Der Prozess. to evolve textual strategies which continually ‘consume’ their ‘own biases’ at the same time as they expose and erode those of the dominant discourse” (Tiffin 96). namely “The Hunger Artist” and “The Burrow.does not only write back to Daniel Defoe and his canonical text. In addition to Robinson Crusoe. in Wilson Harris’ formula. Like Foe. presents a whole range of textual and intertextual practices which Coetzee considers indispensable to create a dialogue between the past and the present and also to provide a better understanding of how these texts function and continue to affect one’s views. rewriting and borrowing from texts that are considered part of the European canonical heritage serves to subvert these texts and through them the whole discursive field in which these texts have been produced. Both texts tell the story of unfortunate outcasts who find themselves conducting a difficult life and trying to survive amongst hostile and harsh conditions. Coetzee’s Life and Time of Michael K (1983) is another novel which is engaged in a strong relationship with other texts. but. but also aims at interrogating and challenging Western cultural patterns of knowledge. operated and transmitted. 16 . His strategy of rereading.” Coetzee’s novels. This subversive strategy “does not seek to subvert the dominant with a view to taking its place.
not only questioning the latter. the novel’s 266 fragments do not only represent Magda’s story and history.III. Presenting the whole narrative from the perspective of a crazed spinster. Coetzee adopts a position that abstains from power. including women and the racial Others. but also provide a harsh criticism of power structures in all forms wherever and whenever they existed. such as those of colonialism. This use manifests itself in the numerous quotations. gender and class. but challenging our right to such things as epistemological certitude” (Huggan & al 5). Coetzee tries to reveal the South African colonial past as well as to give voice to those who have been silenced and marginalised throughout history. Magda. who leads a miserable life in one of the farms in the Cape at the turn of the nineteenth century. of the forms of authority made possible by language. In his writings and interviews. The strategy of intertextuality in In the Heart of the Country aims at re-reading. race. she also has an insider’s knowledge of how oppression functions. Magda is apt to speak about the sufferings of those who were subject to the tyranny of the colonial aggressive tools and the cultural oppressing systems. Coetzee’s use of the Western literary heritage is part and parcel of his critique of language because it is made in language. Coetzee’s novels are “contemporaneous in incorporating a radical critique of language. As a white person. Magda and the Western Literary Heritage In the Heart of the Country is a perfect example of Coetzee’s novels which are involved in an intertextual relationship with other works so as to reflect a situation of oppression. Functioning from a marginal position as a woman in a patriarchal South African society. The relationship between Magda and her sources is a relationship of dialogue in which attention is drawn to serious issues. suffering and decay. Indeed. bringing into question and recycling its source texts and theories in order to give them new 17 . allusions and (in)direct references to many works which are considered essential parts of the European canon.
on the other. thereby “stretch[ing] the boundaries of realism. Cinderella’s bad time begins. the South African farm novel. shortly after her mother’s death. By the coming of her stepmother and her two vile daughters. I will discuss the strategy of intertextuality in the novel. feminist theory and George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s and other thinkers’ theories which can be applied to anti-colonialism. by creating a narrator who is able to find evidence of her own existence only in her own writing” (Briganti 34). Jacques Lacan’s theory of the symbolic function of language. In the Heart 144). but she is rewarded by an easy and happy life close to the king’s son who chooses her to be his wife when he discovers that she is the beautiful maiden who danced with him in the palace hall.meanings and at the same time to subvert some of their hidden ideologies. Magda on different occasions draws a link between her experience and that of characters from fiction or fairy tales. Fortunately. Magda’s life is not at all an easy life. The notion of oppression is what links Magda and the fairy tale of Cinderella because they are both oppressed subjects. The novel in fact succeeds in its strategy of describing the experience of its protagonist through an intertextual relationship. Cinderella does not end up doing nasty work all her life. by trying to draw a link between Magda’s narrative and the fairy tales of Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. the life of Cinderella is a continuous nightmare full of sufferings. by taking the stuff for its story from literature. Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe. whom she identifies herself with: “CINDRLA ES MI” (Coetzee. her father marries with another woman (we are never sure of that. Like many modern thinkers. and. on the one hand. for she also lost her mother while she was still young. One of these famous figures is Cinderella. In the fairy tale. Like Cinderella. Coetzee believes that the Western literary canon is contaminated by ideological viruses and male bias. In her attempt to tell her own life. she takes care of the house and her father: 18 . for it could have happened only in her fantasies). misery and hard work.
In the case of Cinderella. Magda’s father represents the white coloniser and the dominating master. one can mention the story of Hansel and Gretel.She is the new wife. As a white male in a patriarchal South African society. Close to the end of the novel. therefore the old one is dead. Magda’s father as presented through her imagination is the ruler of the farm and its inhabitants. Magda’s father is presented through her perception as the source of her problems. As still another link between the situation of Magda and fairy tale characters. Magda recreates one of Hansel and Gretel’s scenes. like a chill draft eddying through the corridors. Thus. neglected. you must go now. the father did nothing to protect his daughter from the mistreatment by his new wife and his step-daughters. (Coetzee. Becoming an oppressor. Magda’s father represents a double power: the power that the male exerts over the female and that which white colonisers exert over the natives. She describes the relationship between her and him as an antagonistic one. Likewise. The old wife was my mother. is what links the two stories together. whom the servants are afraid of and address with respect: “Hendrik. but died so many years ago that I barely recall her…I should have been standing ready to greet them [the father and his bride] with smiles and offers of tea. I was absent. In the Heart 2) Both Cinderella’s and Magda’s misery are the outcome of their father’s negligence. playing the role of the bad old witch with the post boy in the role of Hansel: 19 . Therefore instead of being the womanly warmth at the heart of this house I have been a zero. but remained an absence throughout the story. I was not missed. To my father I have been an absence all my life. My father pays no attention to my absence. but I was not. grey. like the wicked old witch in Hansel and Gretel. In the Heart 33). a vacuum towards which all collapses inward. a turbulence. for Magda sees him as being responsible for her miserable life. muffled. vengeful. null. the baas will be cross if he sees you hanging around here” (Coetzee.
In other words. Trying to find their way back to the house of their father.When no one answered his knock he left the house and went down to the orchard. the son and the daughter of a poor wood cutter whose second wife convinced him to leave his two children in the middle of a forest because he could no longer procure daily bread for the four of them. with the big teeth pointing in all directions and the mad eyes and the mane of grey hair. Magda fails to establish a reciprocal relationship with the society she lives in. where the orange trees stood full of fruit. however petrified. that worse was true. He jumped to his feet. but we are never sure if that really happened. like stones. The very idea behind inscribing herself in the role of the evil witch could be defined in terms of her personal life. Unlike the early example in which Magda associates herself with the helpless Cinderella. It was there that I crept up on him. how strange to speak real words again to a real listener. In the Heart 135) The situation described in this scene is a recreation of the old tale of Hansel and Gretel. ‘And who is stealing my fruit?’ I said. trembling. but she finds herself in a complex 20 . she recounts that she is raped by the servant Hendrik. Magda describes herself as if she were the bad old witch we recall from the original story. in this reworking of Hansel and Gretel’s story. the words dropping heavily from my lips. The child stared back goggle-eyed – let me recreate the scene – at the crone in the black dress flecked with foodstains and verdigris. (Coetzee. that he would never see his mother again but butchered like a lamb and his sweet flesh be roasted in the oven and his sinews boiled down to glue and his eyeballs seethed in a potion and his clean bones thrown to the dogs. knowing in that instant that all the stories were true. an old woman of the wilds. trying to hide a half-eaten orange behind his back. they end up captives of an old witch who lay in wait for children to fatten them and eat them. Indeed. These elements make her not at all at ease.
The structures of power and its tradition of oppressing the weak lead to unequal relationships and hinder the establishment of a sound community where freedom. The feeling she gets is more that of an outcast who lives in a world created by herself: “summers and winters come and go. Speaking 23). The famous example of a good castaway is Daniel Defoe’s protagonist Robinson Crusoe. the ‘You’ is a debased ‘You’” (Coetzee.network of oppressive relationships. In the Heart of the Country is also another novel which alludes to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. not having had the foresight long ago to start cutting notches in a pole or scratching marks on a wall or keeping a journal like a good castaway” (Coetzee. How they pass so swiftly. so that there’s only an ‘I’ and the ‘You’ is not on the same basis. Magda is not a castaway like Crusoe. but her life on the farm. decreases her sense of belonging to a community and being surrounded by people. peace. who managed to survive and build a small colony on a deserted island. all of which is spent in loneliness. how many have passed I cannot say. In the Heart of the Country is about “living among people without reciprocity. In this respect. almost ruined by her father. Magda proves to be a duplicate version of the same oppressive system which was behind all troubles in her life. That is its nature. In her attempt to play the role of the bad witch. love and respect prevail. Magda sees herself as suffering. On the representative level. Hendrik and society. According to Coetzee. Magda attributes to herself wicked roles so as to claim power. Throughout the narrative. the novel is about power which “invades. This unequal relationship between the ‘I’ and the ‘You’ is behind the aggressive and futile role that Magda imagines herself fulfilling. It invades one’s life” (Coetzee. He makes the native Friday his servant and starts using the tools he has found in the wrecked 21 . Age 117). In her attempts to set herself free from being the weak and the helpless victim. Like Foe and Life and Times of Michael K. He also represents the superiority of European man and his ability to claim possession of and power over other races and places. In the Heart 134).
nor that of the servants. Magda cannot fulfil the role of a white mistress. Magda becomes more aware of class questions and the differences between her and the servants. Magda also proves to be incapable of running the farm as her father did. yet convenient to the self. Her relationship with the servants echoes that of Crusoe and his servant Friday. though this was normal at least in rural areas in past times in South Africa. inferior. the life in the 22 . By doing so.ship and his European knowledge to build up terraces. At the beginning. the servants in these cases. After her father’s suspicious death. Magda attempts “to attain with them the dialogue that she was originally denied because of their different social positions and a contact she could never hope to attain with her father because of his temperament and authoritarianism” (Canepari-Labib 82). cultivate the land and tame goats. Unlike Crusoe. This notion of Crusoe as a successful empire builder is what Coetzee tries to call into question in his fifth novel Foe. She no longer treats the servants as her equals. However. Westerners are superior because of their advanced weapons and expertise. In a sense. Crusoe manages to build up a colony on that virgin island. In a later stage in the novel. Consequently. He also succeeds as a symbolic and mythic figure of the glorious and powerful European man. Magda tries to break the barriers between her and the servants. is seen as alien. Magda failes to establish intimacy and to create a dialogue between herself and the servants. Magda fails to become the substitute of her father and the ruler of the farm and its inhabitants. the myth of the superiority of the European race is not always true because not all Westerners are able to give directions. but imposes her position as a white mistress who embodies authority. but her position and role remain dubious. Magda is associated with the inferior position of a servant when she declares that she used to play with their children when she was a little child. an unequal relationship in which the Other. by inviting Hendrik and his wife Anna to sleep with her in the same house.
Magda wishes for a sort of regression. 23 . language constitutes social. According to Lacan. such as man/woman. according to Lacan. In this respect. As for the symbolic stage. recognises his or her own image in a mirror. master/slave etc1. As a solution to her problems. legal and cultural prohibitions and restrictions and it is intimately connected with power and its repressive and oppressive processes. In Coetzee’s narrative. which 1 The discussion of Lacan’s theory is based on Abrams’ entry “ psychological and psychoanalytic criticism” in his Glossary of Literary Terms. “this symbolic realm of language […] is the realm of the law of the father. Here the infant subject starts to construct an independent identity which alienates the self from the other. that a child. which increases her feeling of loneliness. That is to say. In the Heart 7). Magda’s indirect entrance into language — she says she first learned a pidgin or even African language before learning Afrikaans (or English?) — marks the primal split between her and the servant’s children: “I spoke like one of them [the servant’s children] before I learned to speak like this” (Coetzee. Lacan distinguishes between two major periods: the imaginary stage and the symbolic one. It is only in a later stage. in which the ‘phallus’ (in a symbolic sense) is ‘the privileged signifier’ that serves to establish the mode for all other signifiers” (Abrams 252). unlike young chimpanzees for instance. the child is integrated into the symbolic order of language and its pre-existing symbols. a transitory stage between the imaginary and the symbolic stages. which is also known as the pre-linguistic. she wants to fall back into an inanimate condition. in the mirror stage. language. to the world where language is not needed. which takes place after the acquisition of language. language plays an important role in constituting power. In his theory. In Lacan’s theory. This makes us think of Lacan and his revolutionary concepts of the psychosexual formation of the child’s patterns of personality.farm collapses and things and her life go out of control. the child cannot make any difference between himself/subject and other selves/object(s). In the imaginary stage.
or clench themselves over the long satisfying silence into which I shall still. the novel in its very choice of setting its events in a deserted Cape farm echoes the features of the South African traditional “plaasroman. In a similar way. Coetzee shows a great interest in the genre of the South African “plaasroman. enough of an expression of whatever this is that needs to be expressed. lead to the irredeemable rupture between her and the servants. thus. one day retire. In the Heart of the Country is a novel which is deeply engaged with gender issues as it conveys a direct criticism of the Afrikaner patriarchal system and through it to the whole discourse which guarantees its hegemony and supremacy. She rejects the idea of being a product and a consumer of language and its laws: The lips are tired. I explain to him [Hendrik]. Before getting access to the father’s language. In several of his essays. Magda tries to be free from the world of language by regressing to a pre-linguistic state. As a reaction against her father’s laws. that they could simply part themselves to make way for the long aaaa which has. whereas in the later stage the child follows the law of the father. in the prelinguistic state. Language. I promise. authority and power. In the Heart 91) Magda’s regression to a state of no language ties in with the idea of passing from the imaginary. living in a sort of paradise in which there is no distinction between slave and master. (Coetzee. always been enough for them. Magda says that she used to be herself.” For 24 .” known also as farm novel. the baby feels with the mother. Differently put. to a symbolic phase or adulthood. if truth be told. manipulation. they want to rest. restrictions and prohibitions. between the Self and the Other.contains the father’s laws. is central to ideology. since it was revealed to them that there was a law. In this type of fiction. they are tired of all the articulating they have had to do since they were babies. baby language. rural life is presented as an ideal natural condition.
According to Rich. in a narrow one. Coetzee points out that the plaasroman transcends: [The] awareness of being doomed to die while the world lives on… [this] is attained via conscious acceptance that the unit of life is the lineage. It is mainly this simplistic vision of this kind of novels and their very usefulness in representing the South African conditions which Coetzee’s novel tries to call into question. According to Coetzee. (Coetzee quoted in Dovey 183) Being a woman. many of the feelings of cosmic identification and engulfment which in the first place were attributed to the relation not of farmer to farm but of man to the wilderness. more particularly the South African condition. 25 . Magda is not the right person to be the holder of the plaasroman’s tradition because she can be part of nature.” as he claimed in “Lineal Consciousness in the Farm Novels of C. which aims at associating the social conditions with the land as a property concept. not the individual […] Into the myth of the good farmer and his marriage with his farm are drawn many of the energies of European Romanticism. the novel is an anti-pastoral. The very choice of setting the action of the novel in a farm is in a way a parody of the plaasroman. in a broader sense. the main characteristic of the “plaasroman. the plaasroman is an aesthetic form of the coloniser’s hegemonic discourse.Coetzee. and an anti-plaasroman. but not one of the farmer’s successors.” is for the protagonist to go beyond time and place and unite with nature and become part of a farmer’s long line of successors. for it tries to suggest a more complex reading of the rural life. to forest and moor and mountain. which can be traced back to Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm (1883). van den Heever. Paul Rich makes the point that “In the Heart of the Country emerges as an ‘anti-pastoral’ novel in that it takes an idealised rural situation…and subjects it to a merciless scrutiny in order to try and reveal some inner truth about the nature of real social reality” (70). M.
known in English as “feminine writing” or “writing the body.Another thing worth mentioning is that Magda’s narrative is prototypical of l’Ecriture Féminine. (Coetzee. creep through the honeycomb of your bones. In the novel. Magda expresses her rejection of the role she is consigned to by the phalocentric culture. Magda attempts to go beyond the fixed signifying systems of language to the realm of the symbolic space of the prelinguistic stage: Oh father. flicking their tails. smiling. the stage of the mother-child relation. listen to the turmoil of your marrow. if I could only learn your secrets. whispering to me of a life to come! I want a second chance! Let me annihilate myself in you and come forth a second time clean and new. In her narrative. before the infant gets access to the father-oriented language. the singing of your nerves. such as Hélène Cixous. by making a journey back to her very beginning when she was still a sperm. and come at last to the quiet sea where my countless brothers and sisters swim. Luce Irigaray and many others. To do so. L’Ecriture féminine draws upon Lacanian achievements by developing a feminist theory which tries to map out a possible feminine writing which has its origin in the imaginary stage. float on the tide of your blood.” which forced her to fulfil the role of the subaltern. In the Heart 77) This example shows Magda’s ultimate wish to regress back to the pre-linguistic stage where no language is needed. Magda challenges her father’s monolithic discourse by undermining the existing oppressive systems of the “law-of-the-father. Central to l’Ecriture féminine is the idea of writing the body or using bodily identifications so as to communicate with the other. In a similar example of 26 . father. silenced and helpless victim.” which is associated with a number of French theoreticians. This pre-linguistic experience comes to be reflected in a later stage in feminine writings by trying to disrupt the dominant rules and logic of the phallocentric language. she tries a sort of physical unity with her father.
After her father’s dubious death. In the Heart 16). The mother as a symbolic image is not associated in the story with Magda only. Magda describes the removal of his body in maternal terminology as if she were giving birth to a new being. a new life for herself: “how fortunate at times like these that there is only one problem. if there is no other body. my feet in her feet. the song of birds. its tireless mother. (Coetzee. In the Heart 118) Still another feminist image that can be traced in Magda’s account is the notion of the mother’s womb. I cannot stop these words unless I cut my throat. In the Heart 101). I would like to climb down her throat while she sleeps and spread myself gently inside her. but with earth as an emblem of fertility and life. though being unproductive. my hand in her hands. my skull in the benign quiet of her skull where images of soap and flour and milk revolve. she described the action as if she were bringing him back to the mother’s womb: “The bundle. and I. the holes of my body sliding into place over the holes of hers. I want to block my ears against this chatter that streams endlessly from and into me. 27 . hauled out again. a hole to snuggle in. Magda imagines herself playing the role of the mother. the smell of the dung. In many occasions in the narrative. lies like a great larva at the graveside. I want a home somewhere else. set again about stowing it in the safe place I have chosen” (Coetzee.writing the body. though there is one I would far prefer. a problem of cleanliness. In the passage where Magda dug up a grave to bury her father. there to wait mindlessly for whatever enters them. Magda seeks to demolish the barriers between master and slave and becomes one with Klein-Anna as she declares in this passage: I want a cave. rocking in my bloodwarmth. not angry now but gentle. laving me with the soapy seed. Until this bloody afterbirth is gone there can be no new life for me” (Coetzee. I would like to climb into Klein-Anna’s body. the parts of a man. sleeping in my cave. if it has to be in this body then on different terms in this body. instinct-driven.
a signifying system. of distance and perspective. Moreover. Her very aim behind her plea in stones is a way to suggest a language of her own that differs from the language of the father and also to add her own experience to other experiences which took place in “the land [of South Africa] a page on which the generations write their story” (Coetzee. the feminine turns out to be a form of resistance. In the Heart 106). first. of the phalocentric subject as essential for the emergence of the suitable conditions for the expression of female thoughts. but it is all we have” (Coetzee. Magda in her narrative tries to write the self and to make her voice heard. subversion. who regards the displacement. standing between the colonial masters and the colonised natives. makes them apt to 28 . he noted that “one ought to question [power] from its antagonist position. but she is at the same time eager to reverse roles and become the dominant in turn. I feel too much the pathos of its distance. In her stone messages to the sky-gods. as a creative woman. In one of Coetzee’s interviews. for instance. Magda represents herself in a series of broken languages. The in-between position of white women in South Africa. an authoress who sees in poetry a medium. through which she can assert her own existence. the adaptation of the white female perspective is relevant to the discussion of the notion of marginality. It is true that Magda is fully aware of the fact that she is the product of her father and his laws. such as Luce Irigaray. White 66). later. It was my father-tongue. as a helpless Cinderella-like woman who is appealing for rescue and.The portrayal of Magda’s character stems from the views of some feminists. In this context. Women’s position of inferiority makes them ideal for any attempt at subverting the dominant patriarchal discourse. I do not say it is the language my heart wants to speak. though she knows that her words are echoes of her father’s language: “I was born into a language of hierarchy. Magda’s insistence on describing her experience in terms of intertextual relationships highlights this search for subjectivity and overcoming the limitations implicit in her situation. namely the position of weakness” (Coetzee quoted in Martuz 90).
So what we get is two distinct self-consciousnesses: One “is the independent consciousness whose essential nature is to be for itself. especially George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s dialectic of the self and the Other or the master and the slave. The master needs a slave to do the work for him. yet convenient to and wholly dependent on the ruling and powerful Afrikaners. Jean-Paul Sartre and. are represented as passive figures. representation is a crucial element of “the process by which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. any text contains a discourse. is produced as a representation. The former is lord. carrying beneath its surface ideological and cultural implications. the other is bondsman’” (Steinhart 3). the other is the dependent consciousness whose essential nature is simply to live or to be for another. Hendrik and Anna. are the servants. These ideological and cultural representations in literary texts help in fixing. at the level of signs. political and cultural relations in which become apparent the ways by which language. Like women. the language of the servant is a language which is different than the one the whites speak. It does involve the use of language. and the latter serves the former to save his life. The difference between the self and the other occurs also in terms of language. The racial others. According to the British theoretician. propagating and reproducing the power structures of a particular society. in the novel. who belong to a different race. In this respect. but also. Stuart Hall. As stated by Magda. the racial others. of signs and images which stand for or represent things” (Hall 15). even more repressed than women.undermine the systems of power which do not only suppress women. This kind of division creates a sort of hierarchy in terms of binary oppositions: 29 . a complex network of social. the relationship between master and slave is based on mutual dependency. even more intensely. Coetzee’s treatment of the theme of race in this novel stems from the achievements of thinkers such as Frantz Fanon. For Hegel. the racial others are a repressed group.
In an interview with J. aren’t we. servant versus master. there is no room for compromise between the self and the other. she fails to make him think of her in the same way he does about Anna. despite Magda’s many efforts. create a society in which reciprocity exists. But now I am just Magda. M. For another thing. Can you say Magda? Come Say Magda for me. For one thing. I was once also little Magda. at the representational level Magda is described as a farmer’s daughter who has no academic degrees or strong intellectual knowledge of the major European languages or theoretical achievements. miss. and you are just Anna. Magda fails to transform her relationship with Hendrik from a merely sexual one into an emotional level. the action of the novel. since the distinction between their distinct categories is irrecoverable: “‘We are all little to begin with. and therefore condemn[s herself] to desperate gestures towards establishing intimacy” (Coetzee quoted in Attwell 68). In other words. so to speak. Many critics. coloniser versus colonised. precedes these 30 . remains unbridged. Coetzee. Likewise. I can’t’” (Coetzee. and I am far from laughing” (Coetzee.white versus black. In the Heart 111).' to. In the narrative. Afrikaners and Hottentots. which may be situated between the end of the nineteenth or the beginning of the twentieth century. In the Heart 7). created by language and power structures: “At the feet of an old man I have drunk in a myth of a past when beast and man and master lived a common life as innocent as the stars in the sky. however.’ ‘No. he declares that his protagonist fails because she “lack[s] the stature to transform [the] 'I' into a 'You. find Coetzee’s use of recent theoretical issues debatable. Coetzee’s very choice to stress Magda's failure in bringing the two races together recalls the diseased South African situation under Apartheid. Magda expresses her discomfort with this ideological construction. The gap between the novel’s two races. In many occasions in the novel. Magda’s attempts to be close to Anna and to eliminate the formalities between them were doomed to failure.
Kierkegaard. or allusions to. including Blake. the use of intertextuality helps in highlighting the dominant themes of the novels. Sartre and Hegel’s theories of master/slave dialectic. many important figures in modern Western literature and philosophy. in the words of Ian Glenn. Magda’s struggle to liberate herself from her father’s laws and restriction is meant to challenge the existing patterns of domination which govern the relationship between sexes as well as races. being a woman in patriarchal South Africa. In the short period when she possesses a powerful position after the alleged death of her father. Magda’s narrative involves a critical questioning of the power structures of the dominant patriarchal culture. Her narrative is peppered with quotations from. I have argued that the intertextual references. allusions and citations are not the outcome of Coetzee’s lack of inspiration or imagination.theoretical achievements and some of the intertextual references. Magda fails in establishing her own identity without being dependent on her father. The novel stresses the idea that the dichotomies 31 . but rather a way to engage in dialogue with these source texts as well as to reveal their underlying ideologies. Hegel.’ (59) Clearly. Kafka. Dominique Head summed up the situation as follows: The construction of Magda is ultimately a textual problem. I have showed how the racial others have been seen and dealt with as inferior beings who are dependent on Whites and are there to serve them and to satisfy their desires. ‘a kind of Emily Dickinson with Therapy and a thesis in critical theory. I showed that part of Magda’s problem is her gender. Sartre and Beckett. The representation of the racial other supports Fanon. She fails also in inhabiting the position of powerful mistress. the position left empty after the death of her father. she proves to be a product and a duplication of him in dealing with those who are under her rule. Freud. The fact that she is versed in contemporary literary theory makes her seem. in the sense that she is shown to be the product of different textual influences.
They are not allowed any space to speak about their experience or to comment about the narrative’s events. is what made him subject to harsh criticism. like all Coetzee’s works. which take place after the novel’s main events.between self/other. the servants are completely silenced as they are only seen through Magda’s point of view. In the Heart of the Country. and any attempt to bring the two extremes together is doomed to failure. In the novel. Coetzee’s reliance on modern texts and theories. 32 . is a landmark in the contemporary English literature which succeeds in profiting from the Western literary heritage and at the same time questions its hidden discourses. by putting under scrutiny the power structures of patriarchy as well as the colonial enterprise and its processes. Yet. servant/master govern the power structures.
This radical departure from the original text aims at putting under scrutiny the basic assumptions of the British canonical text. In Foe. retelling Crusoe’s story and history from the viewpoint of a female castaway called Susan Barton. I mean that Coetzee’s reason to rework Defoe’s text is to exploit the tension between the centre and the margin. and examining the text’s many complexities such as the issue of (hi)story. representation and the notion of authority. which regards Defoe as the first novelist in the English history of the genre. Sharing with Crusoe and Friday the experience of the island. To do so. among other things. credibility. By the function of parody.” To Coetzee’s critics.IV. namely the question of the rise of the novel. It comes to mean that present representations which are derived from past ones tend to reverse the function of the original text so that what is “true” becomes “false” and what is “false” becomes “true. I have argued that Coetzee in In the Heart of the Country tries to subvert. Parody in Foe In the previous chapter. but also to the entire discursive system that guarantees the supremacy of Western canonical works (98). Coetzee in Foe challenges the primacy of the Western standards that assume universality. In other words. Dominic Head in his article “The Maze of Doubting: Foe” states that Coetzee has tried in Foe to write back also to Ian Watt and his classic work. Likewise. Foe is a good instance of postcolonial texts that put into question the very relationship between Europe and the rest of the world. Foe is widely regarded as a parody of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Central to my discussion in this research paper is the function of parody in Foe. he deals with a broader issue. he writes back to Daniel Defoe’s classical work Robinson Crusoe. Robinson Crusoe. Head argues that Robinson Crusoe is seen by Coetzee “not as a canonical English text – Defoe is the father of the English novel in 33 . For Helene Tiffin. Foe manages to write back not only to Robinson Crusoe. the South African literary genre known as the plaasroman. The Rise of the Novel. Susan tells the story anew.
Watt states that: the story though allegorical. is used allegorically by Defoe to describe his own life experience. In The Rise of the Novel. the actions of whose life are the just subject of these volumes. which made him able to come up with stories which attracted their attention. The enrichment of the social groups which were concerned with commerce and industry. As stated in the preface to Robinson Crusoe. an enthusiastic narrative of the project of ‘civilizing’ virgin territories against indigenous peoples. The story of this shipwrecked man referred to as Robinson Crusoe. Watt claims. even against all odds” (113). Watt discusses the achievements of the founding fathers of the English novel. the account of the story is supposed to be a real one: ‘the editor believes the thing to be a just history of fact. and to 34 . Defoe’s main achievement in Robinson Crusoe is his attempt to create a world with a realist effect. Daniel Defoe. Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding. neither is there any appearance of fiction in it” (7).conventional accounts – but as an embodiment of the great myth of Western imperialism. Watt argues. Watt believes that Defoe’s success in establishing his literary career and becoming a representative of the emerging reading public has to do with the fact that he belonged to this middle-class category. by presenting the whole in the form of an autobiographical memoir. as well as the different elements which contribute to the rise of the English novel at the beginning of the eighteenth century. especially the increase of the middle class reading public. According to Watt. and well-known too. “have altered the centre of gravity of the reading public sufficiently to place the middle class as a whole in a dominating position for the first time” (Watt 53). The suggestion here is that the story is a real historical account of an adventurous shipwrecked person. Watt’s choice to devote the opening chapter of his book to the discussion of Realism as a predominant novelistic expression during the beginning of the eighteenth century is significant. is also historical: it is based on the life of a man alive.
To illustrate this idea.” Coetzee’s most significant deviation from Defoe’s texts is the use of the female narrator. what fancy. Coetzee deprives his Cruso the heroic qualities of the original character we recall from the original story. as I heard it from his own lips. Moreover. he has kept no journal (he does not even notch the passing days on a stick) and has no desire to leave the island. Foe is going to problematise Defoe’s tale by accusing Foe of telling lies and lacking logic: I would gladly now recount to you the history of this singular Cruso. (1112) What is worth mentioning in this extract is that Susan Barton. But the stories he told me were so various. and no longer knew for sure what was truth. Coetzee’s narrator.whom all or most part of the story most directly alludes. Derek Attridge mentions that Coetzee’s Cruso is a parodic version of Defoe’s Crusoe because Cruso has “made only minimal attempts to improve the quality of his life. (100) Foe is a novel that examines this very notion of veracity in Defoe’s account. the stress of age “on his memory” makes Cruso unreliable as he is unable to distinguish between “what is truth. what is fancy. and Defoe hints that he is himself the ‘original’ of which Robinson Crusoe is the ‘emblem’. particularly those spent in isolation. Foe marks a metafictional journey back to the island to reveal the hidden terrain of his source text and to question the claim that the novel represents true events. that it is his own life which he is portraying allegorically. Taking this claim into consideration. and so hard to reconcile one with another. finds what is supposed to be Cruso’s hidden stories “so various” and “hard to reconcile one with another” because of the psychological disunity of the many years he spent on the island. that I was more and more driven to conclude age and isolation had taken their toll on his memory. He spends most of his time levelling the island’s hill into terraces” (175). Marni Gautier points out that what brings fiction and history together is the fact that 35 .
The traditional receptions. Watt argues.” for he succeeds in building a successful empire even in isolation thanks to the tools he recovered from the shipwreck and also to his stock of knowledge and skills (Watt 69).” Foe is a reaction against those texts which are considered as “part of the process of ‘fixing’ relations between Europe and its ‘others. This tendency to mythologize Crusoe’s experience is meant to set him as the new model of the successful European man – enterprise – with the mission and ambition of civilising brutes. Coetzee’s novel Foe foregrounds the absence of the female voice and the irretrievability of the subaltern voice from the largest part of written history” (1). exploring new colonies and cultivating virgin territories. This suggests that Coetzee significantly and consciously puts into question the very notion of veracity in Defoe’s account. Robinson Crusoe has been seen and received as “homo economicus…so ‘economic man’ symbolized the new outlook of individualism in its economic aspects. have highly estimated the work as an evidence of the greatness and superiority of European man. As such.’ of establishing patterns of reading alterity at the same time as it inscribed the ‘fixity’ of that alterity. Gautier suggests that Defoe is in a sense symbolic of a wider phenomenon that is of “the largest part of written history. the writing of fiction and history is selective and subjective at the same time. Gautier attests that “J.they are both narrative discourses and man-made constructs. The modern reception. a dramatization of the Puritan spiritual autobiography. The reception of Robinson Crusoe in Europe and elsewhere in the world was various and distinct. M. rejects the supremacy and the peculiarity of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as part of the Western canon and with it the long history of colonial and imperial practices. In challenging this centrality of the European models. the use of parody 36 . Gallagher points out that Defoe’s story has been considered as “an eighteenth-century testament to the superiority of rational civilization over nature and savagery. naturalising difference within its own cognitive codes” (Tiffin 98). and a celebration of the value of hard work and faith” (169). however.
The element of parody in Foe is manifested in the experience of the island. This subversive strategy “does not seek to subvert the dominant with a view to taking its place.seeks to destabilise the fences that these models surround themselves with to guarantee their hegemonic force and the self-evidence of their patterns. That is to say. ex nihilo. to evolve textual strategies which continually ‘consume’ their ‘own biases’ at the same time as they expose and erode those of the dominant discourse” (Tiffin 96). is inseparable from the story of colonization. and finally Christianization” (Nkosi quoted in Ghallagher 170). This is achieved through reversing the content of the original: Crusoe Friday The island Robinson Crusoe Defoe versus versus versus versus versus Cruso Friday The island Foe Foe 37 . Gayatri Spivak and many others. Coetzee’s very attempt to rework the story of Crusoe aims at rereading. reconsidering and rewriting one of the famous examples of European historical and fictional records in order to dismantle its hegemonic process and to problematise the whole discursive field in which this record has been produced. Like Nkosi. but. operated and transmitted. For many postcolonial critics. Nkosi claims that “in Robinson Crusoe the element of myth regarding the painstaking industry of building a civilization from nothing. exploitation. of subjugation. in Wilson Harris’s formulation. such as Lewis Nkosi. Robinson Crusoe is a colonialist and imperialist text that praises the culture of racism. oppression and colonisation. parody connects a story which is supposed to be of a “true” account (Robinson Crusoe) with another one which is symbolic (that of Susan Barton).
Gallagher comments that “Coetzee’s transformation of the light-skinned. This statement is the source of Coetzee’s description of Friday as being black: “a Negro with a head of fuzzy wool” (5).. Thus. Foe reverses not only the content of the original text. too. and if it helps it will lack authenticity as he has no written records: “you are mistaken!. Part of the parody here is that the reader knows Defoe’s Friday with an agreeable face. that sets you apart from the old mariner by the fireside spinning yarns of the sea-monster and mermaids. As an example. who is described as tawny with rather delicate features: “the colour of his skin was not quite black. Coetzee expresses his opinion about the complex relationship between history and truth. During the various stages of the narrative. European-featured native of Robinson Crusoe into a woolly-haired. Through the perspective of Susan Barton. but also challenges our conception of certain issues. thick-lipped. resides in a thousand touches which totally may seem of no importance” (17-18). Susan demands realism.To illustrate this point. Coetzee brings his reader in a journey from Crusoe’s island to Cruso’s island. Foe’s deviation from Defoe’s representation of Friday is to assert his reality as a black African. A case in point is Defoe’s Friday. Susan is seen to be haunted with telling the truth. not curled like wool” (202). As a parody. whereas Coetzee’s Friday is described with the characteristics of a non-European Other. but very tawny…his hair was long and black. such as that of Otherness. thin lips. white teeth and very good mouth almost as a European. She insists that truth must be documented with a detailed registration to be considered as truth otherwise it is no truth. the relationship between history and truth is is problematic. Susan tells Cruso in a vociferous quarrel that it is not worth-while to try to remember the past events because it will not help. dark-complexioned Negro both 38 .the truth that makes your story yours alone. the white English female..
reveals the true African hidden in Defoe’s account and suggests Friday’s kinship with the indigenous people of South Africa” (181). As Foe points out, what is lacking in Defoe’s book is a sexual element. This leads one to say that there is an implicit sexual connotation in the original text. Watt mentions that love of women plays a subordinate role in Crusoe’s narrative and that he seems to be satisfied with the company of a slave man rather than of a woman: “When Crusoe does notice the lack of ‘society’ there, he prays for the solace of company, but we observe that what he desires is a male-slave. Then, with Friday, he enjoys an idyll without benefit of woman” (77). To take Friday as a common point between the two texts, one can wonder why is Foe’s Friday impotent? To come back to Defoe’s description of Friday: “he was a comely, handsome fellow […] his hair was long and black […] he had a very good mouth […] yet he had all the sweetness and softness of a European” (Defoe 202). One can notice that this Friday is “feminised” to please Crusoe’s unconscious sexual desires. In showing Friday as “a slave unmanned,” Coetzee wants to draw attention to the absence of Friday’s phallus and, ironically, to his passivity and powerlessness (119). The choice of giving Friday no voice highlights the idea of the lost truth. In an interview, Coetzee was asked why Friday has no tongue. Coetzee answers that “nobody seems to have sufficient authority to say for sure how it is that Friday has no tongue” (Coetzee quoted in Martuz 90). Coetzee’s statement sheds light on the concept of authority, which is part of the problem. Friday’s coming to the island is covered in mystery, as that of his roots and his desires. In the narrative, Friday is seen through the eyes of Susan Barton. Susan tries unsuccessfully to communicate with Friday by using pictures, music and signs, in the hope that he can tell something of his story. Being unable to respond to Susan’s actions, Friday is going to lead Susan and the writer Foe to fabricate a story for him because his silence poses difficulties for Susan’s and Foe’s project of telling the story of the island: “Friday has no
command of words and therefore no defence against being re-shaped day by day in conformity with the desires of others” (Coetzee, Foe 121). Friday’s silence, as a sign of his powerlessness, is used as a justification of hierarchal authority: “For as long as he is dumb we can tell ourselves his desires are dark to us, and continue to use him as we wish” (Coetzee, Foe 148). Unlike Susan who wants to decipher the silence of Friday so as to tell or let him tell his reality, the writer Foe thinks that Friday’s silence is simply a puzzle that exists in the heart of every story and all they need is to solve it in their own way. Susan disagrees with Foe’s suggestion. She believes that it is their duty to interpret the silence of Friday in a proper way. In his discussion of the politics of canonisation in Foe, Derek Attridge argues that Friday’s silence is not a passive silence, but a resistant one to all efforts of the dominant discourse to describe this silence in linguistic figures. He says: “For her [Susan Barton], there can be no assurance that all silences will eventually be made to resound with the words of the dominant language, and to tell their stories in canonised narratives – not because there is an inviolable core of silence to which the dominant discourse can never penetrate, but because the most fundamental silence is itself produced by – at the same time as it makes possible – the dominant discourse” (181). Foe’s most significant challenge to Defoe’s canonical account is not only the rejection of the ego- and Eurocentric representation of the racial Other, Friday, but also the exclusion of women from most parts of the original story. For Crusoe, everything is based on the notion of profit. A male slave is more beneficial in a deserted island than a woman. It is this notion of marginalising and silencing women, as well as racial others, and treating them as inferiors, yet convenient to the male self, that Coetzee reconsiders in Foe. The logic of exclusion that characterises the original story and with it a great deal of human intellectual heritage is central to Coetzee’s arguments in Foe.
In the novel, Susan is seen struggling to make her story told, by seeking help from the professional writer Foe to do the work for her. Susan, however, ends up writing a narrative of her own. This option is meant to challenge Foe’s literary power and through him the author’s authority which has systematically and (un)consciously excluded women from the rights of subjectivity in a great deal of their written records. As Gallagher puts it: Susan’s and Friday’s inability to tell their own stories demonstrates how the literary tradition has long silenced and marginalised those defined as Other. In one sense, Coetzee’s Foe grants voice to the silenced through writing and the word: Susan Barton has been written out of Robinson Crusoe in the same way that women have been written out of literary history, but in Coetzee’s fictional world she appears and relates her own story. (186) Throughout the narrative, Susan resists being treated as a helpless victim. This resistance manifests itself in her strong will not to fulfil the traditional role of woman by refusing to be the captain’s mistress and to provide free labour for Cruso and be a fictitious character in Foe’s story. She insists that she is a “free woman who asserts her freedom by telling her story according to her own desire” (Coetzee, Foe 131). The use of names adds to the discussion of authority in the novel. To start with the title “Foe,” one can notice that the word “foe” is generally described in English language dictionaries as the equivalent of “enemy.” In addition to this denotative significance, the label “Foe” contains a symbolic function as it refers to the real name of Daniel Defoe before he added the prefix (De) to his name in 1695 (Gallagher 171; Attridge 177). (De)Foe’s position as author and holder of authority makes him a foe par excellence not only of Susan and Friday, but of all liberal humanists, including Coetzee himself. The very idea behind reducing the father of the English novel into a mere fictive character in a story highlights the discrepancy between truth and representation; between what Coetzee calls “illusionism”
When the found daughter tries to uncover Roxana’s reality as a prostitute. Foe wants Susan Barton’s story to be told from his own point of view. To put it differently. Doubling 27). as growing out of my hand” (Coetzee. Like Susan Barton. Amy. Moreover. Coetzee’s inscription of the famous author Daniel Defoe under his real name aims at dispossessing him of the status of author. Susan’s success 42 . She is murdered by the maid. I know. She abandons her daughter and in a later stage she looks for her daughter to recover her. Another instance which highlights this relationship between naming and authority. The analogy between the characters of Susan and Roxana serves as a reaction against the negative representation of Roxana in Defoe’s novel and through it the questioning of the position of women and the power of discourse in the Western canon at large. In telling the story. Foe 136). by reducing them to mere subjects to the various forms of male-oriented systems of manipulation. Susan manages to overcome her anxiety of authorship only when she uses Mr. is the name “Susan. Susan’s success as the authoress of her own story challenges (De)Foe’s authority which has negatively affected women. Roxana is a mother who denies motherhood.” Most of Coetzee’s critics agree that Foe’s protagonist’s name echoes “Susan. Foe 66-67). but somehow the pen becomes mine when I write with it. Foe’s pen: “your pen. Roxana gets rid of her. the pen as a symbol of the phallus is used as a metaphor for authorship. In Coetzee’s narrative. your ink. he is tempted to provide events which never happened in order to highlight the tale’s credibility for the sake of literary fascination and also to satisfy his own desires. who appears in the third chapter of Foe: “then Mrs Amy looked at her watch and exclaimed how late it was” (Coetzee. subjectivity and power. Mr.” the hidden name of Roxana. Foe’s pen as a phallus opens for her the realm of literary power. a symbol of authority.(realism) and “anti-illusionism” (Coetzee. Attridge 188). Her claim of possession of Mr. who is the heroine of another novel by Daniel Defoe (Durrant 33-34.
Coetzee constantly opposes the negative use of power. Susan interrogates not only (De)Foe’s authority. cultural and intellectual authority to dehumanise. In this context. and objects to being classed with authors such as Daniel Defoe. authority becomes not only a property of authors’ subjectivity. Europeanise and Christanise the natives and defamilarise and demolish their territories and culture. I will use Stephen Slemon’s diagram representing the debate over the nature of colonialism (46): 43 . To elaborate on this idea in the novel. though my interest clearly lies with Foe’s foe. In both Coetzee’s and Defoe’s accounts. The very act of describing authorship in parallel with colonialism and imperialism implies that subjective and textual as well as institutional and operational authority which produces and naturalises the structures of power is to be questioned and challenged. is the type of successful author. the unsuccessful author – worse authoress – Susan Barton” (Coetzee quoted in Martuz 90). but also Cruso(e)’s. Am I being classed with Foe. As a reaction against Tony Morphet’s hints of associating him with the authoritative Foe. or Daniel Defoe in ‘real’ life. as a labour force which costs him nothing.becomes Roxana’s success and “Susan Barton’s story– the one she does not want told –” Derek Attridge argues. but also of a larger scale of imperialistic practices that characterises modern human history. The negative impact of both authorial and imperial authority is harshly condemned in Foe. Friday. the image we have of Cruso(e) is prototypical of a successful European man who manages to establish an empire by building a colony on a deserted island in line with modern European models and by using the colonial Other. Coetzee claims that: “Foe in the book. Cruso(e)’s very act of appropriating the island’s space and the enslavement of Friday makes him stand as a symbolic figure of colonial and imperial processes which utilise their military. “becomes Defoe’s Roxana” (177). In his interviews and writings.
as subjective authority. serves the function of manufacturing and representing the colonised subject. reverses the content of the original text. With the line Cruso(e). The two arrows placed close to authorial and imperial power indicate that the relation between institutional and intellectual authorities (placed at the top of the diagram) and the whole field of representation (placed at the bottom of the diagram) are intimately connected. standing for both Defoe’s and Coetzee’s Cruso(e). In the novel. (De)Foe uses his literary and cultural knowledge and skills (the top of the line) so as to produce textual representations – Robinson Crusoe – of racial Others (bottom of the line) as aliens. so what is “real” becomes “false” and vice 44 . he mentions that colonialism is a left-to-right process of domination. The danger of this systematic strategy of producing theories which glorify the Self at the expense of the Other is a double edged operation. re-using the same semiotic field of Robinson Crusoe.Institutional Regulators (colonialist educational apparatuses) Ө (De)Foe Authorial &Imperial power Cruso(e) ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Friday Robinson Crusoe Foe Susan Barton The semiotic field (‘textuality’) In Stephen Slemon’s discussion of the problematic of post-colonialism. As a parody of Defoe’s text. The role (De)Foe. Slemon represents the coloniser who oppresses and claims power over the colonised. Foe. the representative of which is Friday. inferiors and dependent on the European Self.
what I am engaged in doing is more important than maintaining contact” (Coetzee quoted in Easton 587). Consequently. cultural and ideological sake.” Friday. but also the interrogation of power and the challenge of authority. I am indeed cutting myself off. Central to the character of Susan is not only the revelation of women’s oppression and the exclusion of the feminine from Defoe’s account. pictures. Susan. thereby resisting the idea of being read only as an ironic exaggeration of the features of the original story. Foe addresses the question of who get(s) left out. as an author. Coetzee in one of his conversations said: “Yes. but also of all of Coetzee’s writings. It might seem to the reader that Coetzee enacts the meaning of his novel by asking: who is (s)he? To some extent. Coetzee succeeds in Foe to give an answer to the question of who is “she. This notion of puzzlement is manifested basically in ambiguity. but not of who is “he. which is not a characteristic of Foe alone. I referred in the diagram to the absence of the female voice by the sign Ө. silenced and exploited for artistic. I argue that the whole project of Foe is based on providing a voice and powerful position to its protagonist to become the author of her own 45 . for he becomes no longer “that confident island dweller we recall from Daniel Defoe’s earlier novel on the same subject” (Nichols 95). words.versa. but with no success. Unlike (De)Foe. This unfulfilled contact with Coetzee’s characters is what is striking in Foe. Foe follows the same patterns as Robinson Crusoe. To fulfil its function. nevertheless. the claim that Foe is an ironic and exaggerating imitation and revision of Daniel Defoe’s island story is not always applicable. a voice elided in the original. uses her knowledge to tell the “true” story of the island and try to make Friday tell his own by trying to be in contact with him through the use of different forms of communication. That is to say that the story of Foe on many occasions becomes puzzling by creating its own and dependent world. such as music. Nonetheless. The inclusion of Susan as a new character in Crusoe’s story affects Coetzee’s Cruso’s credibility.” Susan. at least from today’s readers. but this time the whole is told from the perspective of a woman.
J. but as problems to be solved or confined. Friday’s lack of linguistic abilities can be read as a form of resistance against all forms of assimilating him into Western norms. he turns into a symbol of the Others. nothing is heard of Friday. In this sense. analyzed not as citizens. or ─ as the colonial powers openly coveted their territory ─ taken over. The [Other] was linked thus to elements in Western society (delinquents. degenerate. [Those] other peoples variously designated as backward.story so as to assert her own freedom and identity. M. women. outside the reach of any form of expression. and retarded. Coetzee’s Foe succeeds in providing a radical revision of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and revealing the complex discursive field surrounding Defoe’s 46 . uncivilized. Friday’s mutilation becomes a positive and powerful silence. [Others] were rarely seen or looked at: they were seen through. or even people. for all we know about him is presented through the gaze and the views of others. as Michael Marais points out: “as soon as [the Other] attempts to recapture selfhood by appropriating the language of the coloniser. the very choice of presenting Friday as a mute character makes him helpless against all attempts to claim authorising views of him and being reshaped according to the desires of others. The big and still open question of the story is whether Friday’s silence is a negative element or a positive one. Yet. Differently put. (Said 207) On the other hand. the poor) having in common an identity best described as lamentably alien. [it] loses its alterior status and reinscribes itself within imperialist discourse” (74). To sum up. the acquisition and use of the language of the coloniser by the colonial subject makes the latter become part of the imperialist system and its rules. In this sense. This makes him unable to present his version of his own reality as well as that of the island. for his reality and identity remain his own. the [Others] were viewed in a framework constructed out of biological determinism and moral political admonishment. the insane. On the one hand.
for it deliberately succeeds in raising gender and racial issues as well as criticising the European colonial enterprise and its institutio 47 . by exposing Robinson Crusoe’s underlying assumptions and dismantling them. It has been argued that Coetzee in Foe was concerned with issues of dominance. It has been argued that Susan’s struggle to write her story and that of Roxana is a way to assert her and women’s freedom as free beings and challenge this very notion of authority which is one of the properties of male subjectivity. power and truth. Likewise. including women and colonial subjects. the investigation of the novel’s structure reveals the hidden terrain of Defoe’s narrative. mute and mysterious character makes him an emblem of those who have been silenced by the power structures wherever and whenever they existed.narrative. This does not mean that the book has failed to choose a clear position. The function of parody as a discursive strategy adopted in analysing this work helps to interrogate one of the founding texts of the British canon through the vantage point of a woman. I have mentioned that the text of Foe becomes sometimes perplexing as it resists being dealt with in relation to Defoe’s original texts. The discussion of authority in its different forms shows how subjective as well as institutional authorities use their power so as to manipulate and subordinate those who are described as Others. I have expressed my inquiry about the representation of the silence of Friday which carries positive and negative significance. The representation of Friday as a powerless. but rather adds to its literary value.
Central to this debate is the association made between the protagonist. desire and society. The use of intertextuality helps to establish a link between the world of the novel and its sources. namely the young Teresa Guiccioli. such as women. M. is neither of ignorance nor of antagonism. comes 48 . for instance. Disgrace and the Romantic Poets In my discussions of In the Heart of the Country and Foe. but based on influence and identification. Differently put. like Byron. Lurie. J. namely the writer Foe and the island dweller Cruso. David Lurie. The relationship between Lurie and the Romantic poets. the impact of the Romantic poets on Lurie goes beyond the literary and aesthetic function of art in general to the adoption of their ideas and views about major life issues. Lurie’s artistic project also reflects on his identification with Byron.V. In the case of In the Heart of the Country. which celebrates the relationship between Byron and one of his mistresses. especially Byron and Wordsworth. is the first which deals with the post-Apartheid South Africa and the sensibilities and complexities of the Apartheid era. is that they “act [not] on principle but on impulse” (Coetzee. and the English Romantic poets. In this sense. What brings them together. Disgrace 33). Disgrace (1999). Lurie is intending to write an opera about Byron in Italy. Susan Barton’s struggle to bring to light her own experience of the island story is marked by an antagonistic struggle with those who possess power and authority. I have argued that the strategy of intertextuality serves specific purposes. Likewise. It has also been noticed that Magda seems to be unable to figure out what brings her together with the texts she cites. who was passionate and often surrounded by women. Being an expert in Romanticism. for he was a good-looking fellow. Coetzee’s Booker Prize winning novel. so as to comment on this transitional phase of post-Apartheid South Africa. however. the relationship between Magda and her source texts lies in the situation of decay and suffering that she shares with other fictional characters.
absorbed. His feeling towards them is described as snake-like. These customary visits. so pleasurable that from its climax he tumbles into blank oblivion” (Coetzee. for he “has never been passionate. but domination. it would be the snake. Besides. Disgrace 19). Lurie’s sexual experience with Melanie. Lurie is seen as being wholly self-centred in his relations with others.m. For him. At the core of Coetzee’s Disgrace is the impact of desire characterised in Lurie’s ideas about love and sex. impassionate. Lurie’s relationship with the Moslem prostitute. Like Soraya. but rather abstract. especially women. immensely superior in his passions and wholly manipulated by his uncontrollable impulses. For one thing. unwilling and inexperienced. a student in his Byron class. dry and cold: “In the field of sex his temperament. 49 . Sex is seen not as an intimate act. he imagines. Intercourse between Soraya and himself must be. she is too young. Disgrace 1). no emotions are involved. In the opening statements of the narrative. provide the best solution to his “problem of sex” (Coetzee. rather like the copulation of snakes: lengthy. has never been passionate. These elements make Lurie enjoy love with her very much because what he looks for is to exercise his male power and domination: “Though she is passive throughout. Disgrace 1). In his sexual relation with Soraya. rather dry. conveys this idea of passivity. women are passive creatures and objects of desire.to see himself as a servant of desire. though intense. In the narrative. Disgrace 2-3).” and she has been not emotionally engaged with him either. what he desires is neither passion nor reciprocity. but rather as a physical need that must be obeyed and satisfied and a problem to be solved. Lurie thinks. Melanie is quite passive in bed. Lurie’s self-satisfaction governs his relationship with women. he finds the act pleasurable. but “quiet and docile” (Coetzee. Were he to choose a totem. Even worse. we are told that Lurie used to visit Soraya every Thursday at two p. even at its hottest” (Coetzee. is suggestive of rape. Soraya.
Norton 482). As the outcome of his immoral relationship with Melanie. Lurie loses his reputation and his job at the university. As post-Apartheid era . There is no action.Lurie’s domineering personality causes him big troubles in his life. Norton 1). Lurie and Lucy are attacked by three black men and the opera shows no signs of progress. This traumatic incident leads Lurie to the conclusion that Byron and the other Romantic poets were not a good example because they did not help him to get on in his life: “So much of the poets. but also tries to finish his opera on Byron. Who have not. However. 1816. Disgrace 214). it witnessed the change from an 50 . the project of “Byron in Italy is going nowhere. In his refuge. He was ostracised because of his “incestuous relations with his half sister. Politically speaking. is seen as the role model for Lurie. the three young men started beating Lurie and they locked him in the lavatory. Byron. in his male egotism and disregard of all the rules. As long as they got inside. who was forced to flee overseas on April 25. punctuated now and then with groans and sighs from Byron offstage” (Coetzee. the Romantic period was also a turbulent and a transitional era. halting cantilena hurled by Teresa into the empty air. After that they raped Lucy. Neither of these wishes is realised. Disgrace 179). He moves to live with his daughter in her farm in Salem near the Cape. Lurie does not only seek peace and quiet. Socially. Again we find parallel with Byron. who succeeded to get inside her house. just a long. he must say. it is connected with the revolutionary and radical spirit of the French Revolution: “Marked by the declaration of The Rights of Man and the storming of the Bastille to release imprisoned political offenders. by pretending that they need to use her phone for an urgent call. [it] evoked enthusiastic support from English liberals and radicals alike” (Abrams. guided him well” (Coetzee. took few things from the house and left in Lurie’s car. so much for the dead masters. especially in the first half of the novel. The latter was raped by three black men. no development. In fact. Lurie starts to think again when he sees what the ultimate consequences of such behaviour are in his own daughter. Augusta Leigh” (Abrams.
yet it seems difficult or impossible for whites and blacks to live together without being haunted by the devastating memories of the past. At least. or give up everything and accept the new rules of the political game. such as the connection with nature and affinity with death. the whites are left with no other choice. in which the working-class took the political. therefore. from one of the characters of Wordsworth. The association between the contemporary South Africa and the Romantic period is to be traced in the novel. That is to say. then. Among the books that Lurie has published during the course of his career is one on Wordsworth.” and “A slumber did my spirit Seal. In the poems. economic and social lead.agricultural society. Coetzee. it is true that much has changed since the fall of the Apartheid system. however. This Lucy. Therefore. Lucy. The one certainty is that Lucy is strongly associated with Nature. he emigrated to Australia. Lucy dies at the age of three as promised by Nature: Three years she grew in sun and shower. during his stay in Germany. but in an implicit way. The message that the novel tries to transmit is that in present South African society everything becomes possible and impossible at the same time. if the boundaries of everything are changing. called Wordsworth and the Burden of the Past. Wordsworth wrote a poem called “Lucy Gray. all we have is speculations. Another Romantic poet with whom the novel is involved in an intertextual connection is Wordsworth. Lucy shares with Wordsworth’s Lucy not only the name but also other affiliations. In 1799.” “Three years she grew. is not necessarily the same person as the one described in the Lucy Poems. where the power and wealth were in the hand of landowners. 51 . Wordsworth wrote four poems that his critics gave the name of Lucy Poems: “Strange fits of passion have I known. could not.” “She dwelt among the untrodden ways. In a broader sense.” In the same year.” which commemorates the death of a young girl. Lurie might have taken the name of his daughter. like his protagonist. to an industrial community. but either to yield to the wind of change.
Mike Marais points out that Wordsworth’s Lucy Poems signal the failure of power of imagination and “its ability to grasp ‘the spiritual presences of absent things’ and to ‘arouse the sensual from their sleep/ Of Death’” (85). The suggestion is that he is behind the rape incident. Like Wordsworth’s Lucy. He mentions that what brings the two figures together is the feeling of death in life or what he calls “the tension between presence 52 . the road I am following may be the wrong one. Petrus. the black local. too. and will taste the defeat for the rest of my life. Being a woman. All I know is that I cannot go away […] Yes. She is presented as leading a simple life among the black locals at her farm. But if I leave the farm now I will leave defeated. I am not the person you know. domination and supremacy which marked South African history. I am a dead person and I do not know yet what will bring me back to life. (Abrams. The rape experience has broken Lucy’s life to such an extent that she comes to see herself as a dead person. Disgrace 160). This Child I to myself will take. She shall be mine. Norton 154). so as to force Lucy to yield to his wishes and to fulfil his material ambitions to add her farm to what he owns. You have not been listening to me. She willingly accepts to become one of his wives and properties: Dear David.Then Nature said. This affinity with death is a common point that Coetzee’s Lucy shares with that of Wordsworth. she becomes a victim of the male aggression. and I will make A lady of my own. Lucy in Disgrace is associated with nature. (Coetzee. is a token of patriarchal culture and a representative figure of those who possess power in post-Apartheid South Africa. The character of Lucy represents the new spirit and policies of a country in transition. ‘A lovelier flower On earth was never sown.
To conclude. Lurie does not seek in women passion and mutuality. Lurie’s views of women and desire are made compatible to that of Byron. For him. Power systems in new South Africa are much the same as the old ones. Disgrace’s allusion to Romantic ideas and poets helps to define the character of Lurie and to comment on the transitional phase of South African society. 53 . Like Byron. That is to say. but to exercise his male power on them. sex is not a shared feeling and experience between a couple. Racial struggle and the ghost of the past will remain the country’s big foe that neither the Truth Commission. but a problem that has to be solved. as a reflection of contemporary South Africa. with a slight difference that the Blacks hold the power now. nor democratic reformations can solve because disgrace and the flaws of the past reside deep in the heart of the country. These characteristics make him resemble Byron and also his heroes. In associating his Lucy with death — like Wordsworth’s Lucy — Coetzee aims at commenting on the present-day South Africa and the difficulty of co-habitation between Whites and Blacks without being ruined by the flaws of the past.and absence” (85). It has been mentioned that the events of the novel can be read symbolically.
on a dialogue and. the intertextual borrowings and allusions serve the function of engaging in a dialogue with Magda’s narrative and different other texts. In the same way. a link based. restrictions and “Nos” is meant to challenge the governing systems of power which regulate the relationship between those who possess power and the rest. Magda becomes her father’s duplicate. on challenging and questioning the discursive field on which the source texts operate. by creating a strong link between his texts and the ones he cites or alludes to. intertextuality has increasingly influenced the field of literary criticism. on the other. being a female in a society based on the rule of patriarchy.VI. for she treats the servants who are under 54 . by uncovering their hidden ideologies and discourses. is doomed to failure. When she takes over the farm after her father’s alleged death. I have indicated how J. It has helped in dealing with literary texts in relation with other texts or groups of other texts. Coetzee in all his novels engages in a relationship with other theoretical and literary works. her attempt to be in the position of power after the dubious death of her father fails as well. Magda’s quixotic attempt to establish her own identity. I have also tried to illustrate that the gender of Magda forms an essential element of her problem. M. by transforming and reworking some features of the original text(s) in order to create special effects or serve certain aims. Magda cannot manage to be anything else but the product and other version of her father. I have discussed how the strategy of intertextuality helps in accentuating the major themes of the novel. independent from the rule of the father. Magda’s very attempt to set herself free from the chains of the law of the father and all its musts. Conclusion Since the 1960s. Central to Magda’s narrative is the interrogation of the patterns of domination that guarantee the supremacy of male values and the subordination of the female. In this context. In the section about In the Heart of the Country. on the one hand.
namely patriarchy and its rules and colonialism and its mechanisms. or what Hegel calls lord and bondsman. It has also been mentioned that Coetzee’s main aim behind the narrative of Foe is to question power and its systems of domination. however. This does not mean that the novel shows no interest in racial otherness nor does it accentuate the long humanist tradition of silencing those labelled as inferior and Other. I have argued that Coetzee’s radical departure from and reworking of Daniel Defoe’s famous novel Robinson Crusoe aims at interrogating the whole discursive field in which such a text functions. Susan Barton tries her best to make her version of the Island 55 . In addition to the questions of gender and power. The representation of the colonial subjects is marked by an aggressive passivity. Like Magda. fails to do justice to the racial others. as a discursive strategy. I have also tried to illustrate how women. Part of the novel’s success is its choice to bring into debate Western literary texts as well as theoretical ones. Parody in Foe. the issue of race is a dominant theme of the novel. helps in uncovering the text’s many embedded assumptions and ideologies through the use of the female perspective. As for Foe. is based on dependency and inequality. and even inappropriate to speak on behalf of others. are affected and manipulated by the dominant patriarchal culture. so as to put into scrutiny their hidden discursive strategies.her rule in the same inappropriate way as her father. for they are not given much — rather no — space to express themselves or to tell about what happens around them. The novel. like any marginalised group. I have shown that the inferior position which the racial others inhabit and their complete subjugation to and dependency on the powerful Whites supports Hegel’s and others theories’ of master/slave relationships. Everything is presented through Magda’s perspective and gaze. The relationship between the self and its other. Our knowledge about them is wholly dependent on what the imagination of Magda allows. It rather makes it clear that it is difficult.
I have mentioned that the relationship drawn between the novel and Romanticism serves the function of spotlighting the character of Lurie and his views about sentimental issues as well as reflecting on present-day South Africa. one can safely say that the struggle between Whites and Blacks is a vicious contest. but to satisfy his sexual desire. but also in freeing herself. broadly. Susan succeeds at the end not only in writing her own experience. for it is a struggle to claim power. from the power systems which have silenced women throughout history. Power. she challenges male authority and literary domination. I have also argued that the issue of race is as important as that of gender. or any other one. Differently put. which he considers as a “problem. To claim power means the decline of an old power and the emergence of a new one which in its turn will cultivate its own oppressive systems and rules.” I have mentioned that women in the novel are associated 56 . remains power that has to be constantly criticised and challenged. The representation of Friday in Foe does not differ that much from that of the servants in In the Heart of the Country or the rest of Coetzee’s novels. Coetzee’s Disgrace is his first novel which deals with post-Apartheid South Africa and the transition of power to the Black majority. an idea which forms the central theme of Coetzee’s post-Apartheid novel Disgrace. Friday’s missing tongue. By doing this. His treatment of women fits within the traditional patriarchal frame in which women are considered as inferior creatures and objects of desire.story be heard without being dependent on the writer Foe. What is important for him is not passion. for he is and remains the big absence of the novel. particularly. brutal and barbarian the systems of power can be. Being a racial Other. It is this devastating nature of power that Coetzee sets himself against. for Coetzee. story and history demonstrate how aggressive. To apply this formula to the South African context. from the chains of Foe’s dominance and. Friday represents the oppressed and silenced group. I have said that Lurie is a sort of Byronic figure because he is emotionally disturbed. Part of Lurie’s problem is this feeling of male superiority.
space. Western civilisation is not that super human heritage that by necessity should be set as a model and standard for the rest of the world. 57 . Often we take the European models and try to apply them to alien contexts and situations.with the new spirit of post-Apartheid. For Coetzee. Coetzee’s engagement in intertextual dialogue with the European canon shows that the relevance of the whole tradition is limited to the South African situation. the use of the European heritage serves as a way to justify Whites exploitation of the land and the people. The message that the novel tries to transmit is that in present South African society everything is possible and impossible at the same time. yet it seems difficult or impossible for Whites and Blacks to live together without being haunted by the devastating memories of the past. That is to say. without taking into account historical. For Coetzee. but rather our dealing with it is so. social. political differences and specificities. it is true that much has changed since the fall of the Apartheid system. That his views remain limited in time. gender and race. To conclude. cultural. This does not mean that European civilisation is a corrupt or evil one. This is mainly what Coetzee tries to say in these three books and in the rest of his novels.
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