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Artefacts of WritingIdeas of the State and Communities of Letters from Matthew Arnold to Xu Bing$
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Peter D. McDonald

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198725152

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198725152.001.0001

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Against State Literacy

Against State Literacy

J. M. Coetzee vs the novel

Chapter:
(p.191) 5 Against State Literacy
Source:
Artefacts of Writing
Author(s):

Peter D. McDonald

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198725152.003.0007

Seen in the context of UNESCO’s analysis of apartheid education and its long-running debates about indigenous knowledge, this chapter reflects on J. M. Coetzee’s critical relations with the traditions of the European novel, whether in its ‘realist’ or in its ‘modernist’ modes. It begins by examining the school edition of F. A. Venter’s Swart Pelgrim (1958), arguably the most prescribed novel of the apartheid era, which included a curiously high-minded supplementary essay by the leading Afrikaans literary critic A. P. Grové who also happened to be an influential censor. Through detailed readings of Life & Times of Michael K (1983) and Foe (1986), it then shows how Coetzee sought to distance himself and his ideal reader from the European novel, taking issue with its representational powers, its claims to knowledge, and its apparent cultural mobility.

Keywords:   J. M. Coetzee, F. A. Venter, realism, modernism, indigenous knowledge, literacy, formalism, apartheid, world novel, Republic of Letters

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