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After reading Coetzee’s novel ( 1999 ) and so the literary unfavorable judgments that followed its publication. the inevitable decision was that the many different readings of the novel demonstrated it reached readers in extremely single ways. Indeed. it seemed that many of the unfavorable judgments were of different books. The intent of this paper was to concentrate on an facet of the novel that has received small attending. Coetzee’s broad usage of wit or sarcasm in the context of metropolis life in post-Apartheid South Africa during the late 1990s from the point of view of the chief character. David Lurie in the first subdivision of the novel.

Lurie taught at Cape Technical University. antecedently Cape Town University College. Because of low pupil registration. the Department of Classics and Modern Languages had been closed and Lurie had been assigned to learn classs in Communications Skills and a individual class a twelvemonth of his ain pick in an country of his specialisation. Romantic Poetry. When Lurie. 52-years-old at the clip of the novel. had been younger. his impressive physical visual aspect had allowed him to pull adult females of his pick with small attempt.

Attracting adult females had become more hard as he aged. and became even more hard when Apartheid ended and many of its victims. who evidently did non idolise white male “scholars. ” became university pupils and so module. The positions of these pupils spread to white adult females. who already had lacked power. comparative to white work forces. before Apartheid ended. Thus the women’s rightist and civil rights motions that were active in the sixtiess in the United States and other democracies in Western Europe did non get down in South Africa until the ninetiess. when Apartheid ended.

David Lurie’s Story

At the beginning of Coetzee’s novel ( 1999 ) . Lurie was exhaustively satisfied holding sex one time a hebdomad with a beautiful Muslim adult female. paying an “escort” service. Less satisfactory was his following “escort. ” followed by a secretary in his university section. Knowing the hazard presented by new university policies. he however seduced a immature pupil taking his class. Melanie. when he by chance encountered her while on his manner place. Her feelings were clear merely the 2nd clip they had sex.

He had gone to her flat. she had said “no” ( utilizing her concern that her cousin/roommate would shortly return as an alibi ) . he continued and though she did non contend him. she seemed to “play dead. ” waiting for him to complete. In his ain head. he concluded that what he did was “not colza. non rather that. but unsought nonetheless” ( p. 25 ) .

Subsequently. after she had filed a ailment. he met with the disciplinary commission. composed of module ( and one non-voting pupil ) . and readily admitted his guilt. However. he refused to offer extra information that they needed in order to urge to the Rector of the University a class of action other than dismissal. The Rector. in an attempt to avoid inquiring for Lurie’s surrender. asked him to subscribe a statement showing compunction. already written for him by a member of the commission.

After declining to subscribe and being dismissed. Lurie visited his girl. Lucy. at her place in a rural country of South Africa. where the sarcasm in the first subdivision necessarily lessened ( though did non vanish ) because of the most agonizing cardinal event of the 2nd subdivision. the barbarous gang-rape of Lurie’s girl. Lucy. when the rapers besides set Lurie on fire and locked him in the bathroom. hit the Canis familiariss at Lucy’s doghouse. and so go forth in Lurie’s auto.

Criticisms Related to Lurie’s Hearing in Coetzee ( 1999 )

One statement against printing the novel was made by “prominent South Africans” who were opposed to showing “a detrimental image of the country” ( Attridge. 2002. p. 315 ) . This statement did non acknowledge the difference between publicising historical events and valuing literature. and “that the lone responsible manner to prosecute with Disgrace is as a literary work” ( p. 319 ) . Based on this premiss. merely literary unfavorable judgments have been discussed below. Few of these unfavorable judgments even recognized elements of the novel that were humourous or satiric.

Many readings had in common a position of Lurie as a symbol of the white male blue elite. a adult male who had tried to retain the Apartheid privileges of his race and gender. in peculiar. freedom to originate sexual relationships with immature adult females who were their pupils ( Boehmer. 2002 ; Cornwall. 2002 ; Graham. 2003 ; Saunders. 2005 ) .

While the position of these critics did. in fact. reflect Lurie’s position of himself. the critics besides shared Lurie’s ain failure to acknowledge that the techniques he used to seek scoring his adult females pupils were exhaustively uneffective for grounds unrelated to any differences in the academic abilities of pupils before and after the terminal of Apartheid.

For illustration. as Lurie did acknowledge. his sexual conquerings of earlier old ages required him to utilize no techniques at all because adult females were drawn to his impressive physical visual aspect. As he aged. seduction required attempt and he hadn’t a hint as to what would and would non render him appealing to immature adult females. regardless of their colour.

His deficiency of consciousness of the feeling he made on others went to the extreme of him non even being able to pay Soraya. a professional from the bodyguard service to go on what he considered a echt relationship. likely because she found it scaring that he seemed to be following her. Although she could non hold been cognizant of his phantasies about holding sex while her two kids watched. it would be apprehensible for her to hold been concerned about the safety of her kids because she no longer was able to maintain her existent individuality private. a safeguard any professional cocotte should take.

However. Sarvan’s decision ( 2004. p. 27 ) that the phantasies Lurie ( or anyone ) had to increase rousing while holding sex indicated he had a ”moral sickness” was amusing plenty for Coetzee to hold used in the fresh itself. As Attridge ( 2000 ) noted. increased “puritanical surveillance” of one time “private inside informations of sexual intimacy” was non limited to South Africa. but alternatively reflected the universe in general. “notably. . . the United States” ( p. 103 ) and that in the first subdivision of the book. Coetzee’s composing often used “satire” ( p. 103 ) .

Lurie recognized that he had “never been much of a teacher” ( p. 4 ) and after reading a sample of how he taught what did involvement him. Wordsworth ( when scoring Melanie. he told her that “the harmoniousnesss of The Prelude have echoed within him for every bit long as he can retrieve. ” p. 13 ) . one frissons to conceive of him making a worse occupation in learning Communications ( p. 4 ) .

Coetzee provided a really brief sample of portion of a category on Romantic Poetry Lurie taught ( p. 21 ) . so brief that it was amusing. instead than mind-numbing as an full talk would hold been. After reading a transition from The Prelude. he asked the pupils why Mont Blanc had been “a disappointment” ( p. 21 ) . He so pedantically asked them what he already knew – that. of class. none of them had looked up a dictionary definition of “the unusual verb signifier usurp upon” ( p. 21 ) .

Although without a lexicon. context would likely allow automatically deducing a significance such as “intrude upon. ” Lurie implied the transition would hold been clear had they known “that usurp upon means to irrupt or infringe upon. Usurp. to take over wholly. is the perfect tense of usurp upon. usurping completes the act of usurping upon” ( p. 21 ) . When he was younger. it would look clear that the immature adult females in his categories found him sexually attractive because they were looking at him. instead than listening.

Sing Lurie’s sexual relationship with Melanie. Lurie did non look to cognize whether she was attracted to him. sexually or otherwise. That she did non defy him when he had sex with her after she had said “no” could hold been because she recognized she could be safe from physical injury – or even that he’d leave more rapidly – if she were inactive. When she returned to remain at his place. her ground might hold been because she feared her fellow or that Lurie right understood that she did and had a right to pull strings him sing her attending and work in his category. There was no grounds that she feared his “power” to pull strings her class in his class.

After Melanie had filed a formal charge of sexual torment ( and Lurie truly did non hold a manner of cognizing whether or non she was pressured to make so ) . several unfavorable judgments ( Boehmer. 2002 ; Cornwall. 2002 ; Graham. 2003 ; Saunders. 2005 ) seemed to accept Professor Farodia Rassool’s statement that they needed to measure whether a statement from Lurie “comes from his heart” and whether a statement showing “contrition” reflected his “sincere feelings” ( p. 54 ) . Lurie’s term “preposterous” ( p. 55 ) was literally accurate in the sense that it is non possible to find the earnestness of a written statement. but it besides was hard to understand why Lurie. who had ne’er earlier showed any concern about being fallacious. all of a sudden became a adult male with rules.

He did look to be mocking Rassool – but it besides appeared obvious that she was a humourless adult female and regardless of race. she was supported. and without peculiar heat. merely by the two other adult females who had been present at a clip when she spoke. It so was amazing that Saunders ( 2005 ) could hold made an obvious mistake of fact had she read the book. saying “the module commission [ italics added ] indignantly objects to Lurie’s ‘acceptance of charges’ without remorse” ( p. 99 ) .

Saunders repeated her erroneous intervention of the Committee as united in the following three pages. Lurie’s “response does non. from the committee’s position. run into the demands of ethical responsibility” ( p. 100 ) . “…the commission isn’t convinced that Lurie’s admittance is a contemplation of his sincere feelings” ( p. 101 ) . and “Lurie’s public presentation does non carry through the outlook. shared by the novel’s commission of enquiry … that compunction and transformation” were “publicly acknowledged” ( p. 102 ) . How was it possible to neglect to acknowledge that the three work forces at the hearing. “Aram Hakim. sleek and youthful” ( p. 40 ) . “Manas Mathabane. ” the chair of the Hearing ( p. 47 ) . and “Desmond Swarts. Dean of Engineering” ( p. 47 ) had no such outlooks. but alternatively made it clear they wanted Lurie to allow them assist him avoid being asked to vacate?

Swarts. for illustration. said “David…We would wish to happen a manner for you to go on with your career” ( p. 52 ) and Hakim instantly after said “We would wish to assist you. David. happen a manner out of what must be a nightmare” ( p. 52 ) . After Rassool urged that the Committee “impose the severest penalty” ( p. 51 ) . Mathabane responded. “Let me remind you once more. Dr. Rassool…it is non up to us to enforce penalties” ( p. 51 ) . Lurie recognized the work forces were “his friends…They want him back in the classroom” ( p. 52 ) .

There was no response after he noted. “In the chorus of goodwill…I hear no female voices” ( p. 52 ) . but. curiously. Lurie did non look to retrieve that prior to the Hearing. the merely other individual mentioned as a member of the Committee was a module member who “teaches in the Business School” ( p. 47 ) . During the Hearing. she was presented as “a immature adult female. ” but her inquiry about his willingness to seek aid of any sort ( “a priest. for case. or a counselor. ” p. 49 ) suggested she shared the confusion of the work forces about his refusal to merely salvage his occupation. regardless of his sentiment. but had no desire either to carry him to make so or to do him injury.

At the preliminary meeting. the chair of his section was present. a adult female who. harmonizing to Lurie. regarded “him as a katzenjammer from the yesteryear. the Oklahoman cleared off the better” ( p. 40 ) . but the reader had no manner of cognizing whether she cared about him at all or might in fact want to replace him non because of his subject but because she would prefer engaging a individual who could learn.

Coetzee did give the adult female who wanted him to show “contrition” that came from “his heart” a name bespeaking she was “colored” ( at least at the clip of the novel. no-one suggested it was debatable to split people into two racial groups – white and colored. the ground for utilizing the term “colored” ) .

Combined with Lurie holding had sex with a immature pupil who besides was non white. Coetzee clearly intended to present ambiguity sing Rassool’s intended significance of Lurie’s failure to “mention the long history of development of which this is part” ( p. 53 ) . However. there was no justification for Cornwall ( 2002 ) utilizing the races of Rassool and Melanie to make the ( inelegantly worded ) decision that their relationship can “be seen to be informed non merely by the power dealingss of patriarchate and the academy but besides by those of race ; their brush is contextualized within the several centuries of colonial history in which white work forces debauched black adult females with impunity” ( p. 315 ) .

While many of the decisions in unfavorable judgments related to the experiences that led to and occurred during Lurie’s Hearing were that there was a demand for him to show attrition or compunction. the existent events in the novel. as described above. led to the decision that Lurie was more of an unwilled anti-hero than evildoer.

Whatever his grounds were. as an anti-hero. he flaunted both societal conventions sing handling adult females with regard and “politically correct” slang. such as adult females victims of the “patriarchy. ” Should we therefore admire him for the relationships he had with adult females? Of class non. Possibly the most well-known sexual anti-hero was another Professor. self-confessed paedophile Humbert Humbert ( Nabokov. 1955 ) . who demonstrated that so the vilest of behaviours can at the same time be the most amusing.

While Lurie’s violative behaviours pale in comparing to those of Professor Humbert. it would look hard to neglect to acknowledge that both his typically awkward attempts at seduction and his more successful ability to convey out the silliest of exercisings in political rightness resulted in lay waste toing wit at an highly hard period in South Africa.


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Interventions. 4. 315-320.

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Coetzee. J. M. ( 1999 ) . Disgrace. New York: Viking.

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Disgrace. Critique. 43. 307-316.

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Literature Today. 26-29.

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Commission. Parallex. 11. 99-106.

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