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Beyond the speech act : the nonrational ethical imperative in J.M. Coetzee's fiction

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Beyond the speech act : the nonrational ethical imperative in J.M. Coetzee's fiction

Rajiva, Jay (2007) Beyond the speech act : the nonrational ethical imperative in J.M. Coetzee's fiction. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

My thesis project positions the fiction of South African author J.M. Coetzee as a critical investigation into the tradition of the European Enlightenment, which subtends, anticipates, and reifies the excesses of colonial and neocolonial imperialism. I will examine Coetzee's treatment of speech while situating his critique of capital-r reason within a larger discussion of ethical responsibility toward the Other. Using Gayatri Spivak's interrogation of the work of Immanuel Kant, I will argue that Kant's construction of reason as superior to imagination in its perception of imaginative lack when confronted with the unpresentable, sublates the lack of control that emerges if the colonist perceives the 'savage' mass of colonial territory as anything other than infinitely beyond his imaginative capacity, and therefore beyond ethical obligation. I will also present an exegesis of J.L. Austin's speech act theory that will illuminate the alliance between reason and speech in the colonial arena, drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler to locate a similarly poststructuralist impulse in two of Coetzee's early novels, Waiting for the Barbarians and Foe. Finally, I will argue that in one of Coetzee's later works, Disgrace, the power of the rational speech act gives way to a respect for the Other's suffering through an emphasis on nonverbal sound, which vectors ethical responsibility away from a model of obligation and towards a model of care that must, as Spivak contends, be alive to "the intuition that ethics are a problem of relation before they are a task of knowledge."

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > English
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Rajiva, Jay
Pagination:iii, 121 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:English
Date:2007
Thesis Supervisor(s):Didur, J
ID Code:975409
Deposited By: Concordia University Library
Deposited On:22 Jan 2013 16:07
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:40
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