In 2003, 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 novelDisgrace, 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 extraordinary 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 the possibility of equality in postcolonial society. With its wide-ranging consideration of philosophical issues, especially in relation to fiction, this volume stands alone in its extraordinary exchange of ethical and literary inquiry.
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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Columbia University Press
May 25, 2010
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