n English in Africa - Lessons from the dead masters : Wordsworth and Byron in J. M. Coetzee's

Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



As one whose research interests lie in the field of Romanticism, most specifically Wordsworth and Byron, I was obviously intrigued by J. M. Coetzee's use of these poets in . Subsequent readings of the work have convinced me that more attention needs to be paid to the deeper implications of their presence in the text. Certainly many scholars have explored the significance of David Lurie's professional interest in the Romantic poets and the novel's imbeddedness in what Jane Taylor has referred to as "the European Enlightenment's legacy of the autonomy of the individual" as well as a specifically "eighteenth century model of philosophical sympathy" (1999, 25). Yet I feel that insufficient attention has been paid to the significance of Romanticism, the Wordsworthian and the Byronic in the novel. Generally, the commentary ranges from seeing Lurie's academic interests as symptomatic of his white colonialist mentality to a more nuanced but insufficiently developed focus on the possibilities lying behind Coetzee's startling juxtaposition of two of the most famed and yet most overtly antagonistic of the Romantic poets. Zoë Wicomb is representative of the first approach. In her estimation, Lurie may be rejected since he "looks to Europe as the centre of reference" and "our feelings and experiences of nature need not be structured by poetic discourses from the metropolis" (2000, 216).

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