Life After Beckett: J.M. Coetzee and the Politics of Literary Thinking

Farrant, Marc. 2019. Life After Beckett: J.M. Coetzee and the Politics of Literary Thinking. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis explores the relationship between Samuel Beckett and J.M. Coetzee. The focus of the chapters that follow turns from the question of influence towards Coetzee’s development of what I am terming a literary thinking. My approach is informed by current debates in literary studies and seeks to build upon Derek Attridge’s claim for the distinctiveness of the literary. This thesis shows how Coetzee’s complex and ongoing engagement with Beckett leads to an understanding of the ethico-political significance of literature precisely as distinct from other discursive domains. To reveal the ethico-political import of Coetzee’s works I draw upon hitherto unexplored archival materials and trace throughout this project the way in which Coetzee’s fiction interacts with his non-fiction (particularly regarding the commentaries on Beckett), starting from the earliest works of the 1960s and concluding with the most recently published novel, The Schooldays of Jesus (2016).

Central to my contention about the ethico-political ramifications of Coetzee’s literary thinking is the notion of life. Life explicitly demarcates the arena upon which Coetzee approaches Beckett. By adopting and adapting the latter’s sustained critique of anthropocentrism and Enlightenment rationality, Coetzee’s literary thinking situates life at the border between ethics and politics. Life, however, is also pivotal to my account of how literary works function as literature, as an affective and embedded mode of thinking that disrupts the static truths of philosophy. The greater ambition of this thesis is therefore to contribute to both the growing scholarship on Coetzee, especially in terms of his relation to Beckett and other modernist precursors, but also to larger contemporary debates about the relation between life and literature.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


English Literature, Modernism, Contemporary Literature, J.M. Coetzee, Samuel Beckett

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


30 June 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

25 Jul 2019 15:02

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:15


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