UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In the name of love : David Lurie’s romanticized violence in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace Diehl, Lindsay Ann


The thesis argues that the protagonist of J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, David Lurie, enacts a limited worldview, which is indicative of a colonialist mentality informed by scholarly interests in Romanticism. It thus asserts that Disgrace opens a space to explore how certain legacies, or vestiges, of Romanticism are implicated in systems of oppression: colonialism, patriarchy, racism, sexism, and speciesism. Specifically, I am interested in the extent to which these Romantic vestiges constitute a fantasy for Lurie, allowing him to participate in these systems of oppression, while also providing him with a means to understand himself as sensible and empathetic. As such, my project seeks to demonstrate that the novel presents a challenge to Romantic tendencies that oversimplify materially complex realities. Further, I argue that Lurie’s fantasy relies upon cultural dualisms that privilege reason over nature, man over woman, white over black, and hu(man) over animal, resulting in a construction of ‘the human’ that is masculine, white, and of the mind. That is, his fantasy calls attention to a construction of ‘the human’ that is implicitly hostile to Others. Therefore, this thesis interrogates Lurie’s objectification of women and animals to demonstrate that Romantic tendencies can function as a veiling mechanism, allowing Lurie to perceive their bodies as mere supports to his fantasy. Moreover I contend that critics’ sympathetic readings of Lurie serve to minimize the violence he commits against feminized and animalized bodies within the novel, and that this failure to critically engage with Lurie’s Romantic self-justifications evinces vestiges of Romanticism that continue to inform and maintain relationships of domination and exploitation.

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