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“The Country of His Heart”: J. M. Coetzee, Wordsworth and the Karoo Farm

E Smuts


Much of the critical activity surrounding J. M. Coetzee’s work focuses on its metafictional complexity, with particular attention being paid to the ethical significance of his methods of authorial self-negation. This article departs from the critical norm by focusing instead on what may be called the persistence of an authorial presence in Coetzee’s writing. It is a persistence that can be traced in Coetzee’s writing about the Karoo farm, and that draws much of its impetus from Romantic gestures of identification with (and self-identification within) the natural environment. I trace the development of such a form of identification in the work of William Wordsworth, before considering its afterlife in Coetzee’s autobiographical fiction (Boyhood, Youth and Summertime). Coetzee’s writing, I argue, brings a new impetus to our understanding of the Romantic ideal of finding a form of integral being through communion with the natural landscape, by situating that ideal in a textual paradigm that is strongly marked by an awareness of its cultural contingency.

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eISSN: 2071-7474
print ISSN: 0376-8902