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J.M. Coetzee and the Power of Narrative By Gillian Dooley

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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J.M. Coetzee and the Power of Narrative

Chapter 1


My intention in writing about J. M. Coetzee's work is perhaps most easily defined by negatives. Much excellent criticism of Coetzee—and, it might be said, some less-than-excellent criticism as well—puts his work in context: historical, political, literary, and theoretical. Laura Wright, in the introduction to her book Writing “Out of All the Camps,” gives a useful summary of the political and historical dimension of his work. Dominic Head's Cambridge Introduction to J. M. Coetzee is particularly good on the links between Coetzee's ideas and his creative work. David Attwell's book J. M. Coetzee: South Africa and the Politics of Writing explores literary, historical, and political contexts with subtlety and sophistication. Michela Canepari-Labib in Old Myths, Modern Empires concentrates on explicating literary and theoretical “intertexts” to Coetzee's novels. A myriad of other critics have discussed the work in relation to the major literary theorists and in their South African context.

However, it was not until I read Derek Attridge's J. M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading and his other essays on Coetzee that I found a critic with whom I felt I shared an interest in trying to understand how Coetzee