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Opponents of World Literature fear that its advent marks the end of the ‘work of literature’. J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus (2013) presents a world in which the work of literature has indeed been forgotten. Migrants arrive in a new life ‘washed clean’ of the burden of the European tradition. Simón, who dimly recalls the old life, feels that something is missing in the new. He longs for something altogether ‘other’. Might Simón learn from the exceptional child David to perceive the ‘likeness’ in this world? Are we to read Coetzee’s novel like Simón or like David — and with what consequence for our understanding of the work of literature in a time of World Literature?
Keywords: world literature; otherness; singularity; Don Quixote; Jacques Derrida
Title
The World after Fiction
Subtitle
J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus
Author(s)
Benjamin Lewis Robinson
Identifier
DOI Target
HTML Page
Description
Opponents of World Literature fear that its advent marks the end of the ‘work of literature’. J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus (2013) presents a world in which the work of literature has indeed been forgotten. Migrants arrive in a new life ‘washed clean’ of the burden of the European tradition. Simón, who dimly recalls the old life, feels that something is missing in the new. He longs for something altogether ‘other’. Might Simón learn from the exceptional child David to perceive the ‘likeness’ in this world? Are we to read Coetzee’s novel like Simón or like David — and with what consequence for our understanding of the work of literature in a time of World Literature?
Is Part Of
Place
Berlin
Publisher
ICI Berlin Press
Date
2021
Subject
world literature
otherness
singularity
Don Quixote
Jacques Derrida
Rights
© by the author(s)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Language
en-GB
short title
World after Fiction
page start
105
page end
126
Source
The Work of World Literature, ed. by Francesco Giusti and Benjamin Lewis Robinson, Cultural Inquiry, 19 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2021), pp. 105–26
Bibliographic Citation
Benjamin Lewis Robinson, ‘The World after Fiction: J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus’, in The Work of World Literature, ed. by Francesco Giusti and Benjamin Lewis Robinson, Cultural Inquiry, 19 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2021), pp. 105–26 <https://doi.org/10.37050/ci-19_05>

References

  • Apter, Emily, Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (London: Verso, 2013)
  • Attridge, Derek, The Work of Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) <https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198733195.001.0001>
  • Auerbach, Erich, ‘Philology and Weltliteratur’, trans. by Maire and Edward Said, The Centennial Review, 13.1 (1969), pp. 1–17
  • Cheah, Pheng, What Is a World? On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016) <https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822374534>
  • Coetzee, J. M., ‘Jerusalem Prize Acceptance Speech’, in J. M. Coetzee, Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews, ed. by David Attwell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 96–100
  • Coetzee, J. M., The Childhood of Jesus (London: Vintage, 2014)
  • Coetzee, J. M., Draft of Burning the Books (unrealized), 19 October 1973, Manuscript Collection MS-0842, Container 33.1, Handwritten notes, and unfinished draft, 19 October 1973–4 July 1974, J. M. Coetzee Papers, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Derrida, Jacques, The Gift of Death (Second Edition) & Literature in Secret, trans. by David Wills (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008) <https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226571676.001.0001>
  • Derrida, Jacques, and Maurizio Ferraris, A Taste for the Secret, trans. by Giacomo Donis (Malden: Polity, 2001)
  • Mufti, Aamir R., Forget English! Orientalisms and World Literatures (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016) <https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674915404>
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings, ed. by Aaron Ridly and Judith Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)
  • Pippin, Robert, ‘What Does J. M. Coetzee’s Novel The Childhood of Jesus Have to Do with the Childhood of Jesus?’, in J. M. Coetzee’s ‘The Childhood of Jesus’: The Ethics of Ideas and Things, ed. by Anthony Uhlmann and Jennifer Rutherford (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), pp. 9–32
  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, Death of a Discipline (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003)
  • Walkowitz, Rebecca L., Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015) <https://doi.org/10.7312/walk16594>
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Cite as: Benjamin Lewis Robinson, ‘The World after Fiction: J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus’, in The Work of World Literature, ed. by Francesco Giusti and Benjamin Lewis Robinson, Cultural Inquiry, 19 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2021), pp. 105–26 <https://doi.org/10.37050/ci-19_05>
Benjamin Lewis Robinson, ‘The World after Fiction: J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus’, in The Work of World Literature, ed. by Francesco Giusti and Benjamin Lewis Robinson, Cultural Inquiry, 19 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2021), pp. 105-26 <https://doi.org/10.37050/ci-19_05>

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