Abstract

In Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee presents a South African scene of postelection violence through the eyes of Professor David Lurie. In Lurie's dream of his daughter and the imagined personas of an opera, past violations are reconfigured through ghostly bodies. These ghosts are symbolic figures. The ghost does not bring terror, then a relieved delight, as in the romantic sublime; rather, Disgrace's ghosts are Lurie's re-formations of an attack on himself and the rape of his daughter. The specters create a lasting, unsettling affect, as seen in the changes in the writing of the opera. These haunting embodiments contrast Lurie's initial self-romanticizing words. Any romanticized sublimation would forget the tragedy of the past. In contrast, the traumatic sublime is a strategy of symbolic recollection, not just of the attack, but a "proxy" that elucidates Lurie's sordid past. In Disgrace, the female ghost is not only a specter of oppression; it is this novel's symbol of remembrance, a "post"-apartheid muse.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2044
Print ISSN
0034-5210
Pages
pp. 40-54
Launched on MUSE
2005-10-24
Open Access
No
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