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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 September 2021

Against State Literacy

Against State Literacy

J. M. Coetzee vs the novel

(p.191) 5 Against State Literacy
Artefacts of Writing

Peter D. McDonald

Oxford University Press

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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