J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature

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"In 2003, the South African writer J.M. Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his riveting portrayals of racial repression, sexual politics, the guises of reason, and the hypocrisy of human beings toward animals and nature, Coetzee was credited with being "a scrupulous doubter, ruthless in his criticism of the cruel rationalism and cosmetic morality of western civilization." The film of his novel Disgrace, starring John Malkovich, brought his challenging ideas to a new audience." "Anton Leist and Peter Singer have assembled an outstanding group of contributors who probe deeply into Coetzee's extensive and extra ordinary corpus. They explore his approach to ethical theory and philosophy and Pay Particular attention to his representation of the human-animal relationship. They also confront Coetzee's depiction of the elementary conditions of life, the origins of morality, the recognition of value in others, the sexual dynamics between men and women, the normality of suppression, and possibility of equality in postcolonial society, With its wide-ranging consideration of philosphical issues, especially in relation to fiction, this volume stands alone in its extraordinary exchange of ethical and literary inquiry." This collection takes stock of J.M. Coetzee's impact from a number of interesting angles, Including animals, sexuality, race, and reason. The time is truly ripe for such a volume. Philosophers Who are interested Coetzee's work will find these essays useful for their own research, and readers of Coetzee who share an interest in philosophy will be able to further explore those interests."-Matthew Calarco, California State University at Fullerton, and author of Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This collection of essays edited by Leist (philosophy, Univ. of Zurich) and Singer (bioethics, Princeton Univ.; The Life You Can Save) examines the philosophical qualities of Coetzee's works. The topics covered are ethics, human suffering, animal rights, and rationality, and while most of his novels are examined, many of the essays focus on Elizabeth Costello and Disgrace. Although some essays discuss Coetzee's writing style, most are concerned with the philosophical concepts presented in his stories and also applying the theories of such philosophers as Hegel and Nietzsche to his novels. The editors write that the purpose of the collection is to show how philosophy can help explain issues raised in literature and also how literature can enhance philosophy by showing, in an imaginative way, the practical applications of its concepts. VERDICT Although contributors may examine the same novels, they bring out different aspects and critiques of each novel's philosophical qualities. Scholarly readers with an interest in Coetzee's novels or philosophy's relationship to literature will find this work highly rewarding.—Scott Duimstra, Capital Area Dist. Lib., Lansing, MI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231148405
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Anton Leist is professor of philosophy at the Ethics-Center of the University of Zurich. His books include A Question of Life, Good Action, Ethics of Social Relationships, and Action in Context.

Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, Rethinking Life and Death, One World, and The Life You Can Save.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Coetzee and Philosophy 1

Part I. People, Human Relationships, and Politics Peter Singer Singer, Peter

1 The Paradoxes of Power in the Early Novels of J.M. Coetzee Peter Singer Singer, Peter 19

2 Disgrace, Desire, and the Dark Side of the New South Africa Robert Pippin Pippin, Robert 43

3 Ethical Thought and the Problem of Communication: A Strategy for Reading Diary of a Bad Year Adriaan van Heerden van Heerden, Adriaan 65

4 Torture and Collective Shame Jonathan Lear Lear, Jonathan 89

Part II. Humans, Animals, and Morality Jeff McMahan McMahan, Jeff

5 Converging Convictions: Coetzee and His Characters on Animals Jeff McMahan McMahan, Jeff 109

6 Coetzee and Alternative Animal Ethics Peter Singer Singer, Peter 119

7 Writing the Lives of Animals Elisa Aaltola Aaltola, Elisa 145

8 Sympathy and Scapegoating in J.M. Coetzee Ido Geiger Geiger, Ido 171

9 Against Society, Against History, Against Reason: Coetzee's Archaic Postmodernism Andy Lamey Lamey, Andy 197

10 Coetzee's Critique of Reason Anton Leist Leist, Anton 223

11 J.M. Coetzee, Moral Thinker Martin Woessner Woessner, Martin 249

12 Being True to Fact: Coetzee's Prose of the World Alice Crary Crary, Alice 269

Part IV. Literature, Literary Style, and Philosophy Pieter Vermeulen Vermeulen, Pieter

13 Truth and Love Together at Last: Style, Form, and Moral Vision in Age of Iron Pieter Vermeulen Vermeulen, Pieter 293

14 The Lives of Animals and the Form-Content Connection Samantha Vice Vice, Samantha 317

15 Irony and Belief in Elizabeth Costello Jennifer Flynn Flynn, Jennifer 337

16 Coetzee's Hidden Polemic with Nietzsche Ralph Palm Palm, Ralph 357

List of Contributors Alena Dvorakova Dvorakova, Alena 385

Index Alena Dvorakova Dvorakova, Alena 389

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