UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

J.M. Coetzee's occluded intertextuality : reading text, intertext and the archive in Life & Times of Michael K and Foe Turner, Christina


This thesis is a study of occluded intertextuality in two novels by South African author J.M. Coetzee, Life & Times of Michael K (1983) and Foe (1986). It examines Coetzee’s novels in concert with intertexts and archival materials to determine how Coetzee employed intertextuality as a means of negotiating his positionality as a white liberal author in late-apartheid South Africa. In Chapter 1 I examine Coetzee’s initial intention, exhibited in a working notebook and early drafts, to rewrite Heinrich Von Kleist’s 1811 novella Michael Kohlhaas, demonstrating how, although Coetzee ultimately moved away from this intertext, its traces remain in Michael K through an inescapable lacuna which creates an experience of hesitation for character, author, and reader. In Chapter 2, I trace Coetzee’s attempts to rewrite Daniel Defoe’s 1724 courtesan narrative, Roxana, although Foe’s typically identified intertext is Robinson Crusoe. A contrapuntal reading of Roxana reveals that imperialism, motherhood, prostitution, and authorship form a knot in that text, which is transferred to Coetzee’s novel via the return of Susan Barton’s lost daughter in the novel’s final section. Chapter 2 thus seeks to supplement readings of Foe that posit Friday as the novel’s ultimate representation of ethical engagement with alterity. This thesis establishes a relationship of comparative exchange between several kinds of intertext and in doing so aims to construct a personal ethics of reading. Derek Attridge describes the ethics of reading as an encounter, through literature, with the other, or an other. For Attridge, “Coetzee’s works both stage, and are, irruptions of otherness into our familiar worlds” (xii) precisely because reading his work is an event. This thesis seeks to expand Attridge’s conceptualization of reading Coetzee’s work as an event beyond the borders of individual texts to consider the ethical force that results from reading text, intertext and foretext concurrently and interactively.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International