Encountering Disgrace

Encountering Disgrace

Reading and Teaching Coetzee's Novel

Edited by Bill McDonald


Camden House



First book of essays devoted to Coetzee's controversial novel, combining critical and pedagogical approaches.
Ever since it was first published in 1999, Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee's novel Disgrace has provoked controversy. Set in post-apartheid South Africa, it follows Prof. David Lurie as he encounters disgrace through his sexual exploitation of a student and then through the shocking gang-rape of his only daughter. The novel's uncompromising portrayal of the "new" South Africa outraged many, who found the book regressive, even racist. It also challenged readers worldwide to confront its hard questions. This first book of essays devoted to the novel ambitiously brings together criticism and pedagogy. The ten critical essays and eight essays on teaching Disgrace grapple with the ethical issues the novel so provocatively raises: rape, gender, race, animal rights. Disgrace is widely taught in colleges and universities and read in book clubs; the debates it has given rise to will take on fresh life with the release of the upcoming film starring John Malkovich. Unusually, the eighteen contributors to the collection are all faculty members or graduates of the same institution, the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands, and have worked together closely in crafting their essays over the past two years. The volume will be exceptionally useful to teachers of literature, philosophy, and South African culture, to book club leaders, and to all readers of Coetzee.

Contributors: Nancy Best, James Boobar, Bradley Butterfield, Jane Creighton, Matthew Gray, Pat Harrigan, Gary Hawkins, Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, Daniel Kiefer, Bill McDonald, Michael G. McDunnah, Kim Middleton, Kevin O'Neill, Raymond Obstfeld, Kathy Ogren, Kenneth Reinhard, Sandra D. Shattuck, Patricia Casey Sutcliffe, Julie Townsend.

Bill McDonald is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Redlands, Redlands, California.


372 pages
9x6 in
Hardback, 9781571134035, April 2009
Paperback, 9781571134400, June 2010
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004010, SOC032000, SOC031000
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Table of Contents

Introduction - Bill McDonald
"We are not asked to condemn": Sympathy, Subjectivity, and the Narration of Disgrace - Michael Middleton
Beyond Sympathy: A Bakhtinian Reading of Disgrace - James Boobar
"Is it too late to educate the eye?": David Lurie, Richard of St. Victor, and "vision as eros" in Disgrace - Bill McDonald
Disgrace and the Neighbor: An Interchange with Bill McDonald - Kenneth Reinhard
"To Live as Dogs or Pigs Live Under Us": Accepting What's on Offer in Disgrace - Patrick Harrigan
Tenuous Arrangements: The Ethics of Rape in Disgrace - Kim Middleton and Julie Townsend
Dis(g)race, or White Man Writing - Sandra D. Shattuck
Clerk in a Post-Religious Age: Reading Lurie's Remnant Romantic Temperament in Disgrace - Gary Hawkins
Saying it Right in Disgrace: David Lurie, Faust, and the Romantic Conception of Language - Patricia Casey Sutcliffe
The Dispossession of David Lurie - Kevin O'Neill
Community Reading: Teaching Disgrace in an Alternative College Classroom - Matt Gray
Out of the Father's House into a Community of Readers - Kathy Ogren


(This collaborative writing project of professors and graduates of the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands, California) addresses some of the most pressing questions faced by the reader of Disgrace - in particular, the question of empathy with the central characters - and provides frequent insights into the finer points of Coetzee's writing. The volume is also testimony to the extraordinary richness of the novel . . . . Would that our educational institutions allowed more opportunities for this kind of extended collaborative engagement with great works of art. ENGLISH (Derek Attridge)