The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.
'This article argues that J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus embodies a poetics of study. Noting Coetzee’s sustained interest in educational thought, the article places Coetzee’s enigmatic novel in dialogue with Giorgio Agamben’s idea of study, which brings together the latter’s foundational thinking on infancy, impotentiality (Agamben’s term for the distinctly human capacity to withhold a certain potential), and the messianic. It shows how The Childhood of Jesus prompts its readers towards the experimentative pursuit of infinite possibilities for thought in the present moment, inviting a different mode of reading than the future-directed Derridean/Levinasian ethics of hospitality through which Coetzee’s work is often read. In showing how Coetzee’s late work resonates with Agamben’s thought rather than Derrida’s, the article highlights the emergence in Coetzee’s fiction of a view of learning (and, analogously, of reading) that is characterized by irresponsibility and the idea of study with no presupposed end in sight—a dynamic that is quite distinct from an ethics of reading guided by responsibility towards a presupposed “other” to come.' (Publication abstract)
'This article reads Peter Carey’s novel Jack Maggs (1997) through a focus on mapping and mobility. Following John Thieme’s recent attention to postcolonial literary geographies, the article argues that ideas of mapping in the text move away from fixed notions of place and space in order to disrupt colonial dynamics of control and power. It suggests that Jack Maggs explores the concept of vernacular cartography, in which bodies bear their own maps of trauma and transience. The eponymous Jack Maggs destabilizes the borders of Empire through his mobility, though he in turn faces attempts by other characters to manage and discipline his itinerant body. Similarly, the article considers how Carey’s fictional mobility—his engagement with Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and his representation of Victorian England—challenges the literary maps that had long been used to fix Australian identity. Through its concern with mobile bodies, Jack Maggs performs a postcolonial cartography that blurs notions of maps and how they represent the bodies of people, texts, and nations.' (Publication abstract)
'Laura Wright, Jane Poyner, and Elleke Boehmer’s Approaches to Teaching Coetzee’s Disgrace and Other Works includes contributions that were selected based on a global questionnaire sent to university teachers; twenty-seven responded and twelve are included in the collection. As Poyner indicates in the volume’s first section, “Materials,” the bulk of the contributors are from South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States (3). Readers are not privy to how and where the questionnaire was distributed, for how long a period it was available, or the questions it posed, and some of us may be left wondering why a volume published under the banner of the Modern Language Association’s “Approaches to Teaching World Literature” series did not try harder to extend its reach.' (Introduction)