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Elizabeth Costello, Embodiment, and the Limits of Rights

Elizabeth Susan Anker

New Literary History, Volume 42, Number 1, Winter 2011, pp. 169-192 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/nlh.2011.0009

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Elizabeth Costello, Embodiment, and the Limits of Rights


Elizabeth Susan Anker
iterary criticism and theory have, of late, witnessed an explosion of interest in human rights and what we might call the rights paradigm.1 Ours is increasingly a global culture in which rights discourses often yield an automatic truth status with transnational and transcultural appeal.2 As the worlds most effective and visible language for approaching suffering and injustice, human rights and their ever-expanding currency have augured a new era of international regard for the dignity of the individual person. And in many respects, this worldwide proliferation of respect for human rights represents a visionary achievement in politics and law. While our eras thriving investment in human rights is laudable, the legal-philosophical ideals that accompany dominant, liberal articulations of rights are, however, afflicted by deep liabilities. Rights are often criticized for being exclusionary and premised on gendered, racialized, class-based, and other hierarchies and divisions. They advance assumptions about what is natural, rendering normative a narrow definition of what it means to be a fully functioning human being. According to many theorists, they thus prescribe an ethics of subject formation that deauthorizes competing worldviews and cultures that prize antithetical values.3 Even the most widely cited formulation of rights, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the UDHR), can be seen to exhibit such a tendency. By construing human rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples, it rhetorically echoes the logic of development, with its neoimperial assumptions about Third World inferiority and stasis. While largely a symbolic statement that has since been supplemented by an array of other human rights covenants, the UDHRs language helps illustrate why skeptics have censured rights discourses for ratifying some human faculties at the expense of others. By enshrining reason, conscience, freedom of speech, equality, and the right to own property, the UDHR might seem to naturalize a strangely anemic and atomistic vision of the human selfone overridingly invested in Enlightenment-based, or what this essay will term liberal, expectations about human flourishing and progress.
New Literary History, 2011, 42: 169192

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In light of the growing preponderance of rights discourses, it is not surprising that animal welfare advocates have also enlisted the idiom of rightsan idiom that pervades the text of J. M. Coetzees Elizabeth Costello.4 Extending a humanist commitment to overcoming suffering, animal rights proponents foreground animals abilities to experience pain, thereby recalling Jeremy Benthams famous observation: The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But can they suffer?5 Many justifications for animal welfare depart from Benthams emphasis on suffering, however, in their efforts to establish the similarity of animals to humans. Legal and philosophical defenses of the animal typically take the status of the human as their starting points, asking whether animals are sufficiently like human beings.6 Proceeding through the logic of analogy or comparison, they thus focus on an aspect of human consciousnesssuch as the capacity for reason, dignity, or shameand establish that animals, too, possess that faculty.7 Yet, within this type of framework, animals are entitled to rights only to the degree they resemble the human, reinforcing the priority of a limited collection of values. Living under and in the aftermath of South African apartheid, J. M. Coetzee has, throughout his career, reflected a sustained commitment to social justice and human rights. At the same time, however, Coetzee has evinced significant wariness about many of the assumptions that underpin rights as a philosophical construct, and these reservations are brought to bear within Elizabeth Costello.8 Within the text, animal suffering serves not so much to verify the liberal ideals subtending dominant formulations of human rights or to stage an appeal for greater rights protections for animals; rather, the ontological status of the animal paradoxically exposes the fissures and contradictions troubling the basic formula of rights. The process of contemplating animal being discloses to Coetzees protagonist Costello the embodied reality of all existencea reality, importantly, that is occluded within liberal articulations of rights. Costellos recognition of a shared human-animal predicament of corporeal woundedness provides an alternate basis for obligation both to animals and to other human beings, offering a competing philosophical ground for theorizing ethics and social justice. By arguing that the animal represents one instance of a broader focus within Coetzees work on the existential freight of embodiment, this essay charts an interpretive approach that departs from much Coetzee criticism. Many scholars have employed poststructuralist theory to analyze his writing, drawing variously upon Derrida, Levinas, and Lacan, among others, to explain the relevance of ethics to his fiction and to the many animals that populate it.9 Indeed, Coetzees absorption with

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the philosophical significance of animal life has coincided with a recent theoretical preoccupation with animality, a trend fueled in part by Derridas late writings.10 Poststructuralist approaches to the animal typically decipher it as a figure of extreme otherness, or, in Derridas words, the absolute alterity of the neighbor, and thus as quintessentially disclosing the nature of the ethical demand. Such an analytic has been applied with frequency by Coetzees commentators to evaluate the function of his many animals, leading to the conclusion that their radical otherness marks first and foremost the impossible character of ethical responsibility. In maintaining that these prevalent approaches to Coetzees writing neglect his emphasis on the paradoxes of embodiment, this essay draws on Maurice Merleau-Pontys phenomenology to develop a prism not only for elucidating Coetzees animals and the extent to which they divulge the predicament of corporeal woundedness but also for contemplating the limits of the liberal logic of rights. This investment in Merleau-Pontys thought participates within a wider theoretical (re)turn to phenomenology, an emerging orientation within, among other disciplines, literary criticism, political and legal theory, and anthropology.11 On one level, this recent gravitation toward phenomenology represents one permutation of the burgeoning interest in affect, as well as a renewed attention to objects and the material world. Here we could include work as diverse as Bill Browns thing theory and the more Deleuzian formulations of affect evident in Brian Massumis scholarship.12 In light of its sheer ubiquity, the category of affectwith its inescapable grounding in the corporealseems to furnish an unusually versatile analytic that may be accompanied by a diminishing critical precision. That said, the broad appeal of affect and materiality studies is productively symptomatic of a growing fatigue with purely language-based models for theorizing selfhood and epistemology alike, and thus of a parallel desire to question strict constructionist models of subjectivity. This impetus to revisit phenomenology has become especially pronounced within postcolonial studies. Here, too, phenomenology seems to offer an exit from the fields reigning theoretical paradigms, which have variously been criticized both for reducing all social relations to governmental rationalities that invariably emanate from Western institutions and for perpetuating the romance of postcolonial migrancy along with correlative notions such as hybridity and mimicry. In whatever case, critics have increasingly blamed the fields poststructuralist leanings for producing a blinkered hermeneutic focus, alleging that its predominant theoretical currents have privileged certain subject positions over others, with the net effect of eliding the actual, lived terms and conditions of postcolonial existence. In contrast, renewed attention to embodied,

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affective registers of experience have, for theorists including Achille Mbembe, Sara Ahmed, and Leela Gandhi, seemed to purvey an escape from the fields theoretical stalemate.13 Not coincidentally in relation to Elizabeth Costello, this appeal to affect and embodiment has frequently supplied a rejoinder to the secular premise underwriting much liberal political thought, including dominant understandings of rights, a focus that is further evident in the scholarship of Saba Mahmood, Talal Asad, and Charles Hirschkind.14 A phenomenology of embodiment derived from Merleau-Pontys thought can, as such, help to illuminate and surmount certain oversights within poststructuralist accounts of social justice and human rights. Poststructuralist thought has, summarily speaking, offered two primary avenues for evaluating the construct of rights. On the one hand, theorists influenced by Foucault have demonstrated how rights discourses and standards mandate a normative, disciplinary process of subject formation. Likewise, Marxist critics have commonly dismissed rights for collaborating with global capital and legitimizing its proprietary logic.15 On the other hand, deconstructive accounts of ethics have tended to embrace a certain utopian vision of human rights, inscribing their promise within a language of potentiality that casts them as partner to an indefinitely forestalled justice, or in Derridas words a democracy to come. Merged into the larger project of a messianically deferred ethics, human rights claims become merely one guise of the infinite demand posed by the radical other,16 of which the animal represents a paradigmatic instance. It goes without saying that the foregoing theoretical methodologies have conducted invaluable work in exposing the hazards of the globalization of human rights, whether by pointing to the constitutive disjunction between ethics and law or showing how human rights collude with the circuits of neoimperial hegemony. This essay both protracts and intervenes within such diagnoses, while also acknowledging that the discourses of human rights are proliferating and increasingly varied. Given that official legal as well as rhetorical statements of human rights have become so manifold as to sometimes untether their philosophical meanings from their Enlightenment-based and other intellectual origins, it would be erroneous to speak of rights discourses as either strictly Eurocentric or monolithic. Nevertheless, this essay primarily engages what I refer to as liberal understandings of rights to flag the extent to which rights discourses continue to marshal the fiction of the reasoning, dignified, and autonomous individual, thus confirming a vision of the subject as always already in full possession of corporeal integrity. Even while it mobilizes conventional critiques of rights, Elizabeth Costello directs us toward a very different casualty of the liberal architecture of

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rights than poststructuralist theorynamely, to a consideration of how rights logic paradoxically denies the ontological condition of embodiment. As such, this essay submits that Coetzee, rather than presenting us with the animals radical alterity, seeks to adumbrate the contours of what we might term a phenomenological consciousness of shared embodiment. For his protagonist Costello, the embodied woundedness of the animal not only reveals the pitfalls of both Cartesian dualism and the emphasis on reason that informs liberal iterations of rights, but it also divulges the interrelatedness and solidarity of all beings, presenting her with a means of rethinking the sociopolitical bond without reference to political theorys standard calculations. Because such an awareness of embodiment appears incoherent from the perspective of rational self-determination, Costello struggles to find alternate registers of communication through which to convey her evolving insights. In turn, in place of liberalisms conventional grammar of individualistic entitlements and rights, Costello looks to both literature and a theological language of belief as she strives to articulate her phenomenologically inflected conception of just coexistence.

The Liabilities of Reason and Rights


Elizabeth Costello is a deeply confounding and even unnerving text that has inspired substantial scholarly contention. Much of this contention has surrounded Costello herself, an often frustrating protagonist who is perpetually alienated from others by her eccentricity, leading some critics to question her sanity.17 Determining the appropriate genre of the text has also engendered significant academic debate. Elizabeth Costello is composed of only marginally related vignettes that are closer to short stories than cohesive chapters in a novel, and a number of the texts episodes were originally delivered by Coetzee as public lectures. For instance, the two most widely discussed sections of the text were first presented as the Princeton Tanner Lectures on Human Values in October 1997 and subsequently published in the volume The Lives of Animals, followed by extended philosophical commentary.18 Moreover, the narrative of Elizabeth Costello recounts Costellos fictional delivery of parallel academic lectures also on the topic of animal welfare, a device that has spawned heated controversy over whether Costellos polemical politics can be read as proxies for Coetzees views.19 Indeed, despite their different genders, Coetzee endows his protagonist Costello with attributes that conspicuously identify her as a type of alter ego. Beyond their phonetically similar surnames, the Biblical Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist. Even more, Costello, like Coetzee, is a famous au-

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thor renowned for rewriting a key work of the Western canon. Whereas Coetzees Foe returns to Daniel DeFoes Robinson Crusoe, Costello is famed for her feminist retelling of James Joyces Ulysses from the perspective of Molly Bloom. It may be a source of even greater perplexity that, while the cover of Elizabeth Costello asserts its status as Fiction, its content, much like Coetzees subsequent Diary of a Bad Year (2007), is closer to philosophy, raising the question of whether Coetzee masquerades as a philosopher throughout its various episodes. Much of the philosophical argumentation that Costello undertakes, however, can be seen as bad philosophyriddled with hyperbole, false analogies, and incoherence, and these apparent missteps in Costellos logic have only compelled some of Coetzees critics to wonder whether his intention in the volume was not, ironically, to demonstrate philosophys shortcomings. Indeed, as this essay argues, through the philosophical errors of his fictional counterpart, Coetzee stages an implicit plea for the superior merits of poetry, in particular its ability to manifest the caliber of human and animal corporeal being.20 All in all, this ambiguity about Elizabeth Costellos status as philosophy or fiction has helped contribute to its near cult status among literary critics and some philosophers. The primary theme of Coetzees doubly embedded lectures-withinlectures is the politics of animal liberation, and by far the most widely analyzed portion of Elizabeth Costello was first presented by Coetzee as a Tanner Lecture, an episode wherein Costello also delivers an academic talk. Costello opens this now notorious talk by instructing her audience that she will address the subject of animals and the unspeakable horrors of their mistreatment (63). However, she explicitly does not frame her appeals to animal welfare through the language of rights, a telling omission that, as we will see, indirectly censures their enabling logic. After introducing her topic, she continues by equating the Holocaust with the contemporary slaughter of animals (6465), although she promptly concedes that in advancing this comparison she makes a cheap point (66). What is Costello/Coetzee doing in this controversial and much-cited rant? Through this problematic equivalence, Costello incites outrage in order to show the risks of a certain breed of reason: analogical comparison, or the expectation of sameness and likeness through which animal rights advocacy typically proceeds. She again warns later in the same lecture against the implications of analogy when she asserts: The question to ask should not be: Do we have something in commonreason, self-consciousness, a soulwith other animals (79). Beyond revealing the potentially capricious nature of analogy, Costellos almost offensive digression about the Holocaust attests to the dangers

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of the abstract (63). Costello repeatedly decries how practical reason and its analytic tools have warranted the mistreatment of other beings. In doing so, she correlates and cautions against three idealsreason, abstraction, and speecheach of which is intrinsic to, and conspires to support, the broad philosophical architecture of liberal constructions of rights. First, she accuses the Western philosophical tradition, going back to Plato and Descartes, of having erected a dichotomy between subject and object that relegates animals, lacking reason, to the category of the thinglike, or to being mere objects of possession (67). Later, she raises the inverse question of whether apes on the point of giving up their silence . . . should then be afforded human rights, or humanoid rights (70). Costellos complaints draw attention to the two main justifications for historically denying political rights, and by extension legal protections, to different populationsnamely, that they lack either reason or literate speech. But Costello does more than voice familiar anxieties about the tyranny of instrumental reason and the exclusionary structure of rights. Rather, she additionally condemns the misguided logic driving the animal rights movement, showing how it inadvertently reinscribes the priority of the human in its very defense of the capacity of animals for humanlike interaction. To further illustrate her concerns about the conjoined liabilities of reason and rights, Costello offers an extended reinterpretation of Franz Kafkas A Report to an Academy, about the civilized ape Red Peter who gives a lecture to a learned society (18). Costello historicizes Kafkas parable with reference to contemporaneous behavioral experiments then being conducted on primates by the psychologist Wolfgang Khler,21 and these examples further demonstrate for Costello the casualties of the core presumptions underpinning liberal rights discourses. While the experiments inducting apes into rational thought are intended to humanize them (72), in the case of Red Peter they divert him away from ethics and metaphysics towards the humbler reaches of practical reason, drawing out his selfish appetites rather than his ethical sensibilities, the latter of which Costello importantly suggests to be corporeal (7374). As such, reason ironically functions as a vehicle for a type of dispossession, while also conscripting Red Peter into the pursuit of mastery, with all the words insidious connotations of enslavement, colonization, and other forms of domination. His lecture is ultimately cast as an exercise in normalizationa test too, an examination, a viva vocethat initiates him into the antagonistically possessive behavior encouraged by liberal discourses of rights (18). Even as Costello indicts reason, she similarly, though more subtly, forswears the concept of rights. In a particularly revealing passage, when

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she raises the possibility of humanoid rights for Red Peter, she rejects such an option: That is not what Red Peter was striving for when he wrote, through his amanuensis, Franz Kafka, [his] life history (70). Having already affiliated her own predicament as a lecturer with Red Peters, Costello thereby implies that rights are similarly not on her agenda and that another approach to justice might better accommodate animal (and human) welfare. And yet, despite this and other disavowals, Costello is consistently labeled a rights advocate by different characters, much as she has been by many of Coetzees critics.22 Even her son John erroneously reads her agenda as animal rights (61), or the whole animal-rights business (100). Ironically, it is Costellos resort to philosophy in place of literature, her own mtier, that obscures her intellectual commitments. Following her lecture on animal welfare, she faces a staged debate the following day with the fictional philosopher Professor OHearne. Initiating the debate, OHearne states that he has reservations about the animal-rights movement, here again reducing Costellos stance to one of conventional animal rights advocacy. He levies three fairly predictable objections to rights, each underscoring the violence of the liberal rights paradigm. OHearne variously charges that rights are merely a contemporary guise of cultural imperialism; that their emphasis on language and reason renders them exclusionary; and that animals do not comprehend death as humans do (1059). Finally, he concludes by complaining that rights are so abstract as to be unconvincing and idle (110). Overall, while OHearne believes that he rebuts Costellos views, we should note that his complaints merely echo criticisms of rights logic already ventured by Costello herself, which is to say that his reservations are not off the mark. Quite the contrary, his main divergence from Costello lies in the mode of argumentation that he resorts to; OHearne relies heavily on reason and analogy, thus inadvertently confirming the rights paradigm even as he negates it, and leaving him unable to imagine an alternate framework for opposing animals mistreatment. Yet of greatest interest in the Costello-OHearne debate are not his objections but the fact that Costellos responses eschew the logic of rights entirely. Instead of utilizing the analogical reasoning germane to rights, she begins by endorsing kindness to animals, defined in its full sense, as an acceptance that we are all of one kind, one nature (106). Next, when OHearne cites animals deficient intelligence, Costello refuses even to respond, explaining that she would first want to interrogate the whole question of rights and how we come to possess them, thereby highlighting the antagonistic individualism that rights discourses often function to ratify (107). Finally, in the debates concluding statement,

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Costello again abjures reason, countering that she is not sure that she shares reason with [her] opponent. Costello clarifies her thinking thus: If the last common ground that I have with him is reason, and if reason is what sets me apart from the veal calf, then thank you but no thank you, Ill talk to someone else (112). Ironically, here again, Costellos if-then equation employs an elementary principle of analytic logic in her very effort to castigate reason.

An Embodied Alternative
While Elizabeth Costellos dialogue interrogates the liberal logic of rights and its philosophical corollaries, we must still ask whether Costello offers up an alternate framework with which to replace it. In other words, what does she register when she claims that humans and animals are of the same kind? Even as animal being exposes the foreclosures and exclusions that consolidate the liberal construct of rights, it induces in Costello an awareness of her own corporeality, enabling her to envision a phenomenological consciousness and an embodied supplement to abstract rights. Here, then, we might say that Costellos reluctance to embrace reasonalong with Coetzees narration of his lecturesstages a refusal of rational disinterest in a favor of modes of representation that are both immanently and affectively charged. When Costello disputes the accuracy of the language of rights for explaining the condition of Red Peter, she importantly does not substitute it with an affirmative statement of another principle or ideal. Instead, Costello describes his phenomenological status as an embodied animal and compares it to her own: Red Peter was not an investigator of primate behaviour but a branded, marked, wounded animal presenting himself as speaking testimony to a gathering of scholars. I am not a philosopher of mind but an animal exhibiting, yet not exhibiting, to a gathering of scholars, a wound, which I cover up under my clothes but touch on in every word I speak (71). A range of insights emerge from this description. Costello associates her plight with Red Peters, figuring her own consciousness, too, as inescapably animated by her corporeality. She thus rejects the customary priority awarded to reasoned speech in order to assert the centrality of embodied perception. Even more, Costello emphasizes that embodiment entails a state of injury, which for Red Peter is caused by his capture, or forced entry into civilization, and she thereby suggests that his acquisition of practical reason demands the repression of important dimensions of his corporeal beingaspects of selfhood that haunt him intimately yet cannot be fully exhibited.

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Moreover, this corporeal woundedness is heralded by Costello as the essence of what she and Red Peter share in kind, meaning that it both indexes the porous nature of embodied selfhood and furnishes a type of ethical solidarity. While Costello insists that her embodiment is generative of all her philosophical reflectionswith the phrase touch on underscoring the visceral fiber of its influenceshe despairs of how reasoned speech and deliberation cover up, or censor, the recognitions emanating from those embodied registers of experience, rendering them a mark of shame that reason must subordinate. With this image, Costello additionally refuses to translate the sheer corporeality of Red Peters being or her own into the standards and norms that govern the expectations about autonomous, self-possessing personhood sustaining dominant articulations of rights. Throughout her lecture, she also jettisons philosophys goals of discerning universal maxims that regulate existence. Rebuking a questioner who asks her to enunciate principles, Costello responds: If principles are what you want to take away from this talk, I would have to respond, open your heart and listen to what your heart says (82). For Costello, an alternative to rights must not occasion another analytic abstraction that would either occlude the contingent vulnerability of embodiment or erect another subject-object divide, with all its implications for the species hierarchy as well as other forms of sociopolitical oppression. So, in place of the Cartesian cogito, Costello invokes the heart, which she celebrates as an embodied and therefore more egalitarianalthough potentially also more variablemodality of engagement. In rejecting reasoned argument, Costello not only renounces rights logic as a basis for defending animal welfare; she additionally disavows the axioms of rational deliberation that support conventional definitions of the secular-democratic public sphere, in particular the presumption that it is composed of disinterested actors capable of self-abstraction.23 However, this refusal leaves her in something of an ontological and discursive vacuum. Because the idiom of rights offers her neither a philosophical safeguard for animal life nor the imaginative resources that would allow her to fully inhabit her own being, she finds herself on uncharted terrain. Seemingly in an attempt to convey the ontological freight of dimensions of experience not wholly preadjudicated by power or discourse, Costello appeals instead to a phenomenological understanding of existence and a descriptive arsenal better gauged to elucidate such awareness. Her language of embodiment thus gestures toward an alternate conceptualization of species interrelationality, one that surmounts the mutually imbricated liabilities of liberal reason and rights, even though she faces an impasse in her efforts to negotiate such an alternative.

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In place of reasoned intellection and liberalisms constricted explanatory archive, Costello describes each living being as constituted by an embodied soul (78), which she further elaborates in terms of embeddedness (32). She explains why animals manifest embodiment: because their whole being is in the living flesh (110), they cannot sublate this reality by retreating into reason. Red Peter, for instance, is embedded in life, a condition Costello further explains in terms of how we are embedded, you in me, I in you (32), and this vision of mutual intertwining dispels not only mind-body dualism but also the objectifying self-other binary. Since for Costello practical reason underwrites the egoism encouraged by rights, escaping its strictures allows the symbiotic, interdependent character of life to emerge. Moreover, because a consciousness of embodiment displaces the cogito, or the disengaged purity of abstract ideas, Costello invokes embodiment to refute the authority of rational thought. As she urges her audience: To thinking, cogitation, I oppose fullness, embodiedness, the sensation of being not a consciousness of yourself as a kind of ghostly reasoning machine thinking thoughts, but on the contrary the sensationa heavily affective sensationof being a body with limbs that have extension in space, of being alive to the world (78). Her repudiation of decorporealized reason, as such, is counterpart to a pervasive sense of the porous unity of all matter, although that perception of solidarity also estranges her from propositional speech and thus resists being distilled into universalizing principles or laws. Merleau-Pontys thought can here help to delineate Costellos vision of the (human) animal, as well as her attempts to redress the liabilities of the liberal rights paradigm. Much like Costello in her lectures, Merleau-Pontys philosophy dissolves a Cartesian mind-body dualism by linking reason and speech to the embodied subject. In his Course Notes on Nature, he explains that the Cartesian cogito is derived through a method of purification that undoes the unreflected communion with the World by striving to discern objective reality and to reduce it to what it can signify when we think it clearly and distinctly.24 In place of disinterested thought, Merleau-Ponty argues, we must pursue a direct and primitive contact with the world through our foremost status as corporeal beings.25 This phenomenological consciousness, moreover, does not engender clarity or cognizable trutha set of facts capable of being reduced to othersbut exposes the world as strange and paradoxical, as mysterious and not amenable to elucidation.26 As we grasp humanity first as just another manner of being a body,27 we encounter the reciprocal insertion and intertwining of the body in the world, a recognition that discloses the reality of interbeing, or our bodys coupling with the flesh of the world.28 Embodiment does not

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isolate us from others, but instead the mental life of others becomes an immediate object, a whole charged with immanent meaning.29 Such a conception of intersubjectivity represents an alternative to a poststructuralist brand of ethics in its refusal of the explanatory prism of absolute otherness and its acknowledgment of prelinguistic, self-present types of meaning, although they remain fleeting and paradoxical. Along such lines, embodiment gives rise to a species of unity [that] is not a matter of subsumption under a law,30 meaning that it thwarts containment within the principles that Costello also revolts against. However, the task of dispensing with reason and laws is not a facile or reassuring one for Costello; rather, it demands that she grapple with unwelcome and alienating complexity (108). Despite its role in disclosing her connection to the larger world, she experiences her own embodiment as a wound. Importantly, this condition of chronic vulnerability gives rise to a logical contradiction that is brought into high relief through the reality of human finitude, which Costello reckons with in her lecture contained in the (first) The Lives of Animals episode:
All of us have such moments, particularly as we grow older. The knowledge we have is not abstractAll human beings are mortal, I am a human being, therefore I am mortalbut embodied. For a moment we are that knowledge. We live the impossible: we live beyond our death, look back on it, yet look back as only a dead self can. When I know, with this knowledge, that I am going to die, what is it . . . that I know? Do I know what it is like for me to be a corpse or do I know what it is like for a corpse to be a corpse? The distinction seems to me trivial. What I know is what a corpse cannot know: that it is extinct, that it knows nothing and will never know anything more. For an instant, before my whole structure of knowledge collapses in panic, I am alive inside that contradiction, dead and alive at the same time. (77)

In other words, the paradox of embodiment emerges for Costello in her own experiential thralldom to the tangibly precarious rhythms of mortality, in the midst of actively awaiting her own death. Such an intellectually unfathomable exercise defies rational certitude, at the same time as it gives the lie to liberalisms myth of the dignified individual in possession of bodily integrity. As such, Costello dismisses analytic reasons approach to this conundrum as trivial, asserting that it can only be viscerally inhabited through the imagination. Costellos meditations here again resemble Merleau-Pontys account of why an embodied consciousness is premised on paradox. Merleau-Ponty describes the effort to fathom both the separation and the union of the soul and the body as insurmountable; however, he simultaneously main-

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tains that this contradiction is constitutive of the human.31 Predicated on a sustained incoherencewhich is to say that philosophical expatiation and analysis will only deepen such a paradoxour embodiment simultaneously subverts customary assumptions about rational knowledge and contests the fiction of the self-determining, autonomous self. To such an end, it countermands reasons sovereignty and instead elicits a posture of extreme humility, one emanating from our intertwining with and dependence on the parallel vulnerability of other beings. Nevertheless, we must note that these recognitions rest much less comfortably in Elizabeth Costellos narrative than in Merleau-Pontys thought. While we might expect a perception of interbeing to incur a sense of increased interpersonal mutuality, Costello finds her realizations profoundly alienatinga source, if anything, of anxiety and discord. Although Costello tries passionately to convince her audiences of her commitments, Coetzee recurrently dramatizes her lack of success, almost condemning her to the fringes of madness and insanity. Perhaps this is why so many critics have interpreted the Elizabeth Costello episodes as cautionary fables, taking her earnestness to illustrate the pitfalls of philosophical analysis. Costello ostracizes her audiences, even her family resents her obsession with animal welfare, and she herself surmises that her views might be nonsensical. If we as readers are complicit with the myopia of her fictional audiences, we might, then, conclude that Coetzee sets out to indict us, too, for a parallel failure of imagination. However, even Costello experiences a lapse in resolve, and this essay will conclude by probing that very failure. After relentlessly defending her vegetarianism for days on end, Costello confronts an impasse when it comes to translating her phenomenological awareness into persuasive speech, as she confesses to her son John: When I think of the words, they seem so outrageous that they are best spoken into a pillow or into a hole in the ground (114).

Humanity
Such an impasse is also revealed through Costellos recurrent fixation on the attributes of humanity, or those qualities that set humans apart from animals, and her reflections on humanity open up contradictions that equally infect her account of ethics. Namely, she asserts that an embodied consciousness is induced by encounters with animals and that it prefigures an ethical comportment toward life; however, at the same time, such ethical acts testify to a condition of humanity that is unavailable to animals. Taken as a whole, Costellos views may thus seem

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to culminate in an almost incoherent breed of humanism. On the one hand, her celebration of corporeality and critiques of reason and rights question the rationalist orientation of what this essay characterizes as the liberal undercurrents of the European humanist tradition. But on the other, Costellos preoccupation with animal welfare is inextricably grounded in different humanist yearnings and ideals that, instead, operate without foremost reference to reason. As such, Costellos philosophizing prompts troubling questions about whether any given formulation of ethical responsibility will ultimately remain human-centered, even while it may relinquish the liberal-rationalist dispensation of much democratic political theory. Tied to the paradox of embodiment, Costellos central example of humanity concerns the decaying, time-ridden elements of corporeality. In an episode titled The Humanities in Africa, Costello travels to Africa to visit her sister Blanche, a Catholic nun administering a missionary hospital in rural Zululand, and the sisters engage in an extended disagreement over whether the Christian or Greek version of humanism best enables human flourishing. Ultimately, their conflict boils down to the different images of corporeal existence offered by these two traditions. Blanche lauds the Christian vision of embodied brokenness, arguing that the suffering Christ provides something material and concrete for people to touchput their hand into the side of, feel the wound, smell the blood (145). Costello at first revolts against what she characterizes as the backward, indecent, squalid nature of the crucifixion (139), instead preferring Greek thought because of what she describes as its reverence for living beauty (138). After returning home, however, a distant memory compels Costello to rethink her position. She recalls how years ago she used to visit an ailing, elderly man, a painter by hobby, who was her mothers friend in the rest home. After he lost his voice, Costello became his model and provided him with company. One day, when his painting was not working, she responded by offering inspiration, baring her breasts and performing fellatio on his nearly extinct organ of generation (154). Looking back on this incident, Costello realizes that these actions could not possibly comport with the idealism of the Greeks and that only the Christian rendering of humanism and its emphasis on corporeal vulnerability might elucidate the ethical merit of her gesture. Concluding that both eros and agape would obscure her actions affinity to the grotesque, Costello asserts the indispensability of Christian caritas for grasping how humanity might centrally reside within the most humbling aspects of embodiment. Costellos fixation on the meaning of the word humanity also influences her complicated views about animals. While she argues for their

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humane treatment, Costello maintains that the mindset underlying acts of humanity is inaccessible to the very animals at whom these acts are directed. In this way, she makes a point of analytically distinguishing ethical human behavior from animal being. She here evokes the Virgin Mary to explain the descriptive purchase of caritas: We perform acts of humanity. Acts like that are not available to animals, who cannot uncover themselves because they do not cover themselves. Nothing compels us to do it, Mary or me. But out of the overflow, the outflow of our human hearts we do it nevertheless: drop our robes, reveal ourselves, reveal the life and beauty we are blessed with (150). Much as within MerleauPontys thought, humanity, for Costello, ensues from an irrational affirmation of her embodiment that is motivated not by thought but the visceral intuitions of the heart. Here again, she appeals to a metaphor of self-covering as an apparent figure for language, which must temporarily cede to the constitutive woundednessas well as the beautyof the body. Nonetheless, Costello seemingly wants to have it both ways. Her conception of humanity is potentially problematic in endorsing notions of relative dignity and shamewe see here the reappearance of a mode of reasoning based on analogies between humans and animals that, I have argued, the narrative elsewhere calls into question. Hence, despite her pleas on behalf of animals, by withholding from them the propensity for humane or ethical action, Costello seemingly undermines her own apparent values. Not only does Costellos framework exclude animals from the purview of humanity, but she also consigns animal life to a position of affective and imaginative impoverishment. As this essays concluding section considers, Costello affirms poetrys unique potential to capture the texture of both animal being and human embodiment, adumbrating the bearings of such an embodied consciousness on ethical conduct. Nevertheless, Costello also maintains that animals lack the capacity to appreciate art, thus treating poetry as caught up in a unilateral circuit of exchange, or as fall[ing] within an entirely human economy in which the animal has no share (96). Such an explanatory framework bars animals from either performing or understanding ethics, insofar as they cannot undergo the sorts of illumination cultivated by poetry. Ironically, then, Costello extols an awareness of embodiment as something humans can learn from animals through imaginative and experiential immersion in our shared corporeal predicament, while also refusing animals access to the symbolic avenues through which we humans cognitively occupy their embodied condition. And in doing so, she appears to reinscribe the very human-animal divide that a phenomenology such as MerleauPontys sets out to dismantle.

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Of Art and Belief


So, at this point we must ask: can we reconcile Costellos myriad philosophical positions? Are her views hopelessly muddled? Or is it precisely their ostensible confusion that lends them value, reflecting the same productive antagonisms that have spawned the multiplying scholarship on Coetzees text? Likewise, how do we account for Elizabeth Costellos genre and form? Does it qualify as fiction (as its title proclaims), philosophy, or some vexing hybrid of the two? This essays concluding section proposes that the very ambiguity and even discomfort inspired by Costellos intellectual meanderings, along with the texts unnervingly disjointed form, are what render it instructive for charting the dilemmas involved in her attempts to craft a phenomenological supplement to liberal discourses of rights. The very disunity of her ramblings mirrors the obstacles she encounters in her efforts to translate embodiment into not only deliberative speech but also a just and accommodating ethical framework. That said, Costello repudiates reason not in a vacuum but in favor of both art and a rhetoric of belief, modes of expression better gauged to the texture of embodiment and its irreducible contradictions. Similarly, Coetzees decision in the Tanner Lectures to present an academic talk in the form of a narrative suggests that literature is especially well-poised to transcend the dualistic rift between the I think and the I am at the crux of the Cartesian intellectual heritage. In the end, therefore, the many aporias that necessarily and generatively afflict Costellos views are what require the imaginative terrain of narrative literature. In place of rational deliberation, Costello invokes two different imaginative, affective discourses of experiential engagement in her effort to divulge the contours of an embodied consciousness. The first is poetry. It has become virtually axiomatic within posthumanist thought to insist on the value of poetic or artistic modes of communication in bridging the species divide.32 In his discussion of Coetzee, for instance, Derek Attridge draws on a Derridean ethics to discover the strangeness, mystery, or unfathomability [that] is involved in every encounter with the literary.33 Poetry fulfills a very different function for Costello, however, than encountering Derridean otherness. Rather, she extols poetry for making embodiment manifest, while still preserving the fundamentally enigmatic character of corporeal being. Teaching a master class, Costello employs Ted Hughess poems to demonstrate that we too can embody animalsby the process called poetic invention that mingles breath and sense in a way that no one has explained and no one ever will (9798). Costello presses her listeners: If I do not convince you, that is because my words, here, lack the power to bring home to you

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the wholeness, the unabstracted, unintellectual nature, of that animal being. That is why I urge you to read the poets who return the living, electric being to language, and if the poets do not move you, I urge you to walk, flank to flank, beside the beast that is prodded down the chute to his executioner (111). Prioritizing visceral over cerebral access to experience, Costello contends that artistic encounters with animality also promise to revitalize language. The thinking of embodiment, then, yields vast consequences; namely, Costello submits that an embodied consciousness can enliven and amplify our imaginative reserves, as well as our corresponding range of linguistic symbolizations. Costello thus inverts the negative associations of animality, suggesting that, rather than being yoked to silence and speechlessness, corporeal being can reinvigorate expression. In turn, poetry offers a type of remedy for the liabilities of reason, rejuvenating the fabric of affective perception that reason otherwise enfeebles. Accordingly, Costello implicitly challenges any privileging of writing and textuality, asserting instead the bodys indispensable influence on ethical action and lending it a certain precedence over language. While poetry thus reveals the experiential fabric of corporeal being, Costello finds herself faced with the difficult task of transposing her insights into propositional form, leading her to concede that she has no choice but to subject [her] discourse to reason, despite its distortion of her underlying claims (68). Through this double bind, Costello confronts the barriers to transforming a phenomenological approach to justice into the conventions of deliberative, persuasive speech. Since the ontological freight of embodiment inheres within the paradoxes of corporeal existence, its disclosure seems to demand a language itself replete with contradiction. In one instance, we have seen how poetry permits and even prolongs such a species of paradox that rationalistic thought would otherwise discipline and suppress. But, beyond poetry, the primary idiom that Costello adopts in effort to explain embodiment carries conspicuously theological overtones. Urged to defend her vegetarianism, Costello explicitly repudiates the assumption that it extends from moral conviction (88). However, she simultaneously asserts that her conduct comes out of a desire to save my soul (89), thereby relying on a seemingly nebulous distinction between morality and soul saving. Along similar lines, the other language through which Costello defends animal welfare is that of belief. This rhetoric in particular comes to the fore in the texts final episode, At the Gate, in which Costello finds herself in a Kafka-esque purgatory where she must stand trial before judges who insist that she confess her beliefs. In their questioning, they construe the aptitude for belief as what con-

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stitutes the human and separates humanity from sheer corporeality, in a striking parallel to Costellos own denial of humanity to animals. Costello initially tries to evade their demands by asserting that her task as a writer requires holding opinions and prejudices at bay. However, she is informed, first, We all believe. We are not cattle (194). And later her judges again chide her, Without beliefs we are not human (200). Costello, for some time, balks at this notion and counters that our hearts also serve as ethical supports (203), once again affirming the merit of corporeal ways of knowing. She also considers responding in the form of a question: I believe that I am? I believe that what stands before you today is I ? (21011) Through her rejoinder exploding the I think, therefore I am of the Cartesian cogito, Costello postulates the primacy not of thought but of belief, and not of intellection but of the self-present authority of her own corporeal being. Musing over this first unsuccessful hearing, Costello turns for insight to an episode from The Odyssey, which eventually induces something of an epiphany. Like her revelation about caritas, it too involves the nexus between the attempt to intellectually grasp the eventuality of death and an affirmative consciousness of embodiment. In the passage at hand, Odysseus, at the behest of Tiresias, must sacrifice his ram. Costello contemplates not Odysseuss arduous decision, however, but instead the rams death throes, and this imaginative exercise incurs a heightened lucidity. The ram, she thinks, is not just an idea, the ram is alive though right now it is dying (211). Conjuring up a graphic image of its blood and entrails, she refuses to dissociate herself from its death via an idea, or philosophical abstraction, and concludes, For that, finally, is all it means to be alive: to be able to die (211). Paradoxically, this reckoning with death forces Costello into a realization of her formerly submerged, life-celebrating beliefs. In her next petition to the court, she narrates a childhood memory of small frogs living in a river near her home in rural Australia and recalls how, after a torrential rain, the frogs would come to life: At night you would hear the belling of tens of thousands of little frogs rejoicing in the largesse of the heavens (216). Costello interprets their relevance for the judgesWhat do I believe? I believe in those little frogs . . . It is because of their indifference to me that I believe in them (217). After some prodding, Costello even formulates a principle for them: I believe in what does not bother to believe in me (218). On one level, then, while Costello offers up a proposition, it is decidedly nonuniversal and contingent. But of greatest importance, Costellos belief in the animal gains its merit in being unrequited, meaning that it thwarts the expectations about parity and proportionality according

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to which liberal political thought usually measures social justice. It valorizes relations that are imbalanced and cannot be ameliorated by any redistribution of entitlements, whether through the reallocation of resources or greater protection of individual rights. We might say that it is this asymmetry of the social bond that mandates Costellos equally jarring rhetoric. Precisely because Costellos belief is incommensurate with accepted political models and discourses for theorizing human-animal coexistence, she has no choice but to induct a new (or, perhaps, with its theological underpinnings, old) set of terms for fashioning such an accord. Nonetheless, we must still ask some difficult questions about Costellos belief: so as long as an individualistic, rights-based framework for negotiating social justice remains our primary point of reference, is a discourse of faith akin to Costellos doomed to appear, despite its appeal, little more than muddled and incoherent? Or does it point to the foreclosures that sustain liberal democracys fundamentally secular tenets? And might it thereby trace the contours of a breed of sociality premised on responsibility instead of rights? Is the unease that Costello inspires in the reader a byproduct of our legitimate frustration with her meanderings, or does it serve to index the impediments faced in her attempt to reconcile a phenomenology of embodiment with broader principles that might found a social order? As a consequence, does Elizabeth Costello illuminate the limitations of an account of social justice that is based on what Merleau-Ponty calls the flesh of the world,34 at the same time as Coetzees text makes a powerful plea for the compelling nature of such a vision? Merleau-Ponty is again instructive in elaborating the nature of such an impasse. In his Course Notes on Nature, Merleau-Ponty proposes the relevance of a concept of the divine for coming to terms with the incongruities of embodied thought: It is not by thinking according to human being, but according to God that we can solidly think the elements of which human being is made. The incomprehensibility of God, which is nowise his unknowability and even less his irrationality, but the formal reason of the infinite, is indispensable for allowing us to resolve precisely the problem of the ground of truth and the limits of our intelligence. Between these two perspectives, God is incomprehensible.35 For MerleauPonty, religious rhetoric dramatizes the constraints of human intelligence even as those constraints constitute the very essence of the human. To be alivefor both Merleau-Ponty and Costellois a paradox, and the only way to inhabit such a paradox is through an almost Kierkegaardian leap, wherein realities that reasoned intellection would deem mad or impossible become articles of faith.36

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As for Merleau-Ponty, Costellos faith-based rhetoric grasps at quasitheological insights, which she repeatedly conveys through a JudeoChristian iconography. As we have seen, Costello regards the Virgin Mary as the apotheosis of caritas, the ethical comportment of humanity. On the one hand, by thus embedding her ethical commitments within a religious worldview, Costello is able to preserve their nonrational, affectively charged qualities. On the other hand, by drawing on such a familiar repertoire of religious images, she risks domesticating belief, subsuming it within a habitual symbolic economy. Nevertheless, this tension between the paradoxical and mundane attributes of belief mirrors the contradictions inherent to the condition of embodiment, and in this respect Costellos disconcerting language marks both the difficulty and the necessity of incorporating such intensely inhabited yet counterrational commitments into political thought. That is, while Costellos grammar of belief exemplifies the type of discourse that might valuably disabuse the liberal-democratic public sphere of the myth that reasoned deliberation alone grants political decision making legitimacy, her failures also point to the impasses that confront such a project. Costello is willing to avow the multiple, amorphous, and unverifiable underpinnings of her existential faith with a candidness and sincerity that is deeply disquieting, especially to Coetzees largely academic audiences. And precisely the extent to which she unsettles us gauges the urgency of the questions that she provokes. To such an end, Coetzee does depict Costello as aware of just how tenuous her edifice of belief is, whether or not we buy into either her religious inclinations or what some might term her postsecular politics. For at the narratives conclusion, Costello imagines herself allowed a glimpse beyond the purgatorial gate, and what she sees is a dog, an old dog, his lion-coloured hide scarred from innumerable manglings (224). While the text here suggests a connection between the animal and the divine, Costello remains ambivalent about this vision, thinking she does not trust it, does not trust in particular the anagram GODDOG (225). When all is said and done, even Costello recoils against the full implications of her desire to celebrate an embodied consciousness as a sufficient guide for ethical action. While she appeals to corporeal experience as a corrective to the rationalistic bias of rights logic as well as the many hierarchies that it consolidates, her anxiety also indexes productive limits to the heuristic of embodiment. Despite her language of faith, she refuses herself to trust the radical equalization that might seem to ensue from her ontology. In turn, while a focus on embodiment is a valuable check on certain corrosive tendencies of overly abstract or instrumental brands of reason, Costellos own skepticism exposes the

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dangers of invoking embodiment as an independent leveling principle, displaying how it might erase critical distinctions, here between the animal and the divine. Costellos cognizance of her failure as a philosopher brings us back to the question of whether her views are ultimately persuasive. Although Costellos idiom of belief alludes to a necessary kind of language, Coetzee leaves indeterminate the matter of whether her insights can be converted into either a viable politics or practicable policies for navigating social justice. Insofar as Costello forswears the logic of rights as a vehicle for defending animal welfare, her reservations alert us to troubling oversights that sustain liberalisms enabling fictions. At the same time as Costello confesses her own attraction to Greek conceptions of ideal beauty, her many meditations on corporeal suffering challenge the illusion of the dignified, integrated, self-possessing body that lends legibility to liberal discourses of rights. Accordingly, it is the predicament of the animal that exposes the liberal individual posited by rights logic to be a strangely fleshless, decorporealized abstraction, an entity divested of those affective dimensions of selfhood that Costello aspires to redeem as most vital. In turn, at the same time as Elizabeth Costellos anxieties about rightsbased theories of justice and its phenomenological vision of animal being are intimately related, those dual preoccupations bear directly on the status of literature in our contemporary world. For if rights logic is inadequately attuned to faculties of experience that are decidedly aesthetic and imaginative in their caliber, then the literary medium fulfills a crucial function in opening up those modalities of being and cobelonging. As such, Coetzee suggests that embracing the human-animal predicament of embodied woundedness is essential to relinquishing the many dualisms that shore up the self-certitude of instrumental reason and our entitlements over the animal world. Once we absolve thought of its exclusive reliance on reason, the text suggests, our evaluative fidelities can only be declared through what Merleau-Ponty calls the strange and paradoxical registers of beliefregisters of belief that can, perhaps, be especially well captured in works of literature. Cornell University
NOTES 1 For rights as a regime of truth and an ethic, see Inderpal Grewal, Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2005), 12122. 2 Michael Ignatieff describes rights as the lingua franca of global moral thought. Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001), 53.

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3 Aihwa Ong, Experiments with Freedom: Milieus of the Human, American Literary History 18, no. 2 (2006): 237. 4 J. M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello (New York: Penguin, 2004), hereafter cited in text. 5 Bentham, however, famously dismissed human rights as nonsense upon stilts. See Jeremy Waldron, Nonsense Upon Stilts: Bentham, Burke and Marx on the Rights of Man (London: Methuen, 1987). In his seminal Animal Liberation, Peter Singer also identifies suffering as the ground for granting animals protections (New York: HarperCollins, 1975). For the related argument that the first and decisive question should be whether animals can suffer, see Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow), trans. David Wills, Critical Inquiry 28, no. 2 (2002): 369418. 6 For a critique of the like-us model of sameness, see Catharine A. MacKinnon, Of Mice and Men: A Feminist Fragment on Animal Rights, in Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, ed. Cass R. Sunstein and Martha C. Nussbaum (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004): 26376. 7 See Sunstein and Nussbaum for an overview of these debates. For the argument that dignity is the one overarching ideal that pervades all the UDHRs disparate rights, see Mary Ann Glendon, Propter Honoris Respectum: Knowing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Notre Dame Law Review 73 (199899): 115390. For a defense of dignity rights for animals, see Steven M. Wise, Animal Rights, One Step at a Time, Animal Rights, 1950. 8 Coetzees remarks about dignity are revealing. He refers to dignity as a construct and a fiction . . . that sets [human beings] apart from animals. . . . The fiction of dignity helps to define humanity and the status of humanity helps to define human rights. Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996). 9 For such arguments about Disgrace, see Derek Attridge, A Writers Life, The Virginia Quarterly Review 80, no. 4 (2004): 25465; Elleke Boehmer, Not Saying Sorry, Not Speaking Pain: Gender Implications in Disgrace, Interventions 4, no. 3 (2002): 34251; Michael Marais, Little Enough, Less Than Little: Nothing: Ethics, Engagement, and Change in the Fiction of J. M. Coetzee, Modern Fiction Studies 46, no. 1 (2000): 15982; James Meffan and Kim L. Worthington, Ethics Before Politics: J. M. Coetzees Disgrace, in Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory, ed. Todd F. David and Kenneth Womack (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 2001). Rosemary Jolly applies such a rubric simultaneously to Disgrace and Elizabeth Costello, concluding that Lurie is a fictional interpretation of Levinas. Going to the Dogs: Humanity in J. M. Coetzees Disgrace, The Lives of Animals, and South Africas Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in Jane Poyner, ed., J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual (Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 2006), 14871. Two notable exceptions to these dominant methodologies are worth mentioning: first, Martin Puchner reads Elizabeth Costellos treatment of animal rights through Giorgio Agambens thought, which for Puchner displac[es] philosophys anthropocentrism (31), but Puchner argues that the animal ultimately affirms the salience of rights logic. Performing the Open: Actors, Animals, Philosophers, TDR: The Drama Review 51, no. 1 (2007): 2132. Cora Diamond also emphasizes the centrality of embodiment in the text, which she sees, like this essay, as working to display the errors of philosophy. The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy, in Philosophy & Animal Life (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2008): 4389. 10 See, for example, Derridas 1991 interview Eating Well, or the Calculation of the Subject and 2002 Critical Inquiry essay, The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow). In addition to Derridas thought, Georges Bataille explains the disconcerting enigma that is animal consciousness. See Theory of Religion (New York: Zone, 1992). Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, like Coetzee, explore the function of animality in Kafkas fiction. See Kafka: Toward A Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan (Minneapolis: Minnesota

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Univ. Press, 1986). See also Emmanuel Levinas, The Name of a Dog, or Natural Rights, Difficult Freedom: Essays on Judaism, trans. Sen Hand (London: Athlone, 1990). 11 For overviews of the intellectual history of phenomenology as well as the complicated question of Edmund Husserls influence on Derrida, see Dermot Moran, Introduction to Phenomenology (New York: Routledge, 2000); M. C. Dillon, Semiological Reductionism (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1995); and Ian Hunter, The History of Theory, Critical Inquiry 33 (2006): 78112. 12 Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2002). 13 For postcolonial theorists taking up Husserl and/or Merleau-Ponty, see among others, Ahmed, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality (New York: Routledge, 2000); Gandhi, Postcolonial Theory and the Crisis of European Man, Postcolonial Studies 10, no. 1 (2007): 93110; Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 2001); R. Radhakrishnan, History, the Human, and the World Between (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2008). 14 Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2003); Charles Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2006); Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005) 15 For theorists who construe rights in these and related terms, see among others Grewal, Transnational America; Walter D. Mignolo,Citizenship, Knowledge, and the Limits of Humanity, American Literary History 18, no. 2 (2006): 31231; Pheng Cheah, Inhuman Conditions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2006); Wendy Brown, The Most We Can Hope For . . .: Human Rights and the Politics of Fatalism, South Atlantic Quarterly 103, no. 2/3 (2004): 451463; Joseph Slaughter, Human Rights, Inc. (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 2007). 16 See Costas Douzinas, The End of Human Rights (Oxford: Hart, 2000); Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Others Rights, On Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1993, ed. Stephen Shute and Susan Hurley (New York: Basic, 1993); Derrida, Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2005); Gayatri Spivak, Righting Wrongs, South Atlantic Quarterly 103, no. 2/3 (2004): 52381. 17 See John McDowell, Comment on Stanley Cavells Companionable Thinking, in Philosophy & Animal Life, 12738. 18 For the origins of other episodes, see Attridge, A Writers Life. 19 For criticism preoccupied with Coetzees relationship to Costello, see Attridge, A Writers Life; David Attwell, The Life and Time of Elizabeth Costello: J. M. Coetzee and the Public Sphere, in Poyner, J. M. Coetzee and the Idea of the Public Intellectual, 2541; and Laura Wright, A Feminist-Vegetarian Defense of Elizabeth Costello, in Poyner, 193216. 20 Marjorie Garber also makes such a suggestion and reads Elizabeth Costello as a hybrid of multiple, partially nonfictional genres. The Lives of Animals (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999), 79. 21 While this essay by no means suggests that Coetzee overtly cites Merleau-Ponty, we should note that Merleau-Ponty also deals at length with Khlers experiments and gestalt theory, which Khler founded, in The Structure of Behavior, trans. Alden L. Fisher (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne Univ. Press, 1983). 22 Along the lines of Puchners analysis of the text, Donna J. Haraway also concludes that Costello inhabits a radical language of rights and evinces a fierce commitment to sovereign reason. When Species Meet (Minneapolis: Minnesota Univ. Press, 2008), 81. 23 For a discussion of the expectation, see Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, in Publics and Counterpublics (New York: Zone, 2005), 65124.

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24 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Nature: Course Notes from the Collge de France, trans. Robert Vallier (Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press, 2003). 25 Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (New York: Routledge, 2002), vii. 26 Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology, 193, xv, 388. 27 Merleau-Ponty, Nature, 208. 28 Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1968), 138, 144. 29 Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology, 67. 30 Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology,173. 31 Merleau-Ponty, Nature, 129. 32 According to Bataille, the correct way to speak of [animal life] can overtly only be poetic, in that poetry describes nothing that does not slip toward the unknowable (Theory of Religion, 21). Derrida takes a comparable view, that thinking concerning the animal . . . derives from poetry and represents what philosophy has essentially had to deprive itself of (The Animal, 377). Deleuze and Guattari advocate not poetry but music. Becoming Animal, in Animal Philosophy: Essential Readings in Continental Thought, ed. Matthew Calarco and Peter Atterton (New York: Continuum, 2004), 95. While MerleauPonty primarily lauds the metaphysical dimension of painting, he explains that although from the writer and the philosopher . . . we want opinions and advice, art uniquely is able to hold the world suspended and to expose its fabric of brute meaning. Eye and Mind, in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting, ed. Galen A. Johnson (Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1993), 123. 33 Attridge, The Singularity of Literature (New York: Routledge, 2004), 77. 34 Merleau-Ponty, Visible, 144. 35 Merleau-Ponty, Nature, 129. 36 Sren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, trans. Alastair Hannay (New York: Penguin, 1985).