n English in Africa - "Hades this place, and I a fugitive shade" : Classical cultures and languages in J. M. Coetzee's

Volume 43, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Mrs Curren, in Coetzee's , is a retired Classics lecturer. Greek and Roman mythology, and Latin and Ancient Greek, are part of her consciousness. Her humanistic, Enlightenment sensibility is shaped by a liberal education which could be regarded as irrelevant in the South Africa of the novel, and which could therefore function as a symbol of the marginalisation of western liberal culture in Africa. Christian and biblical discourses are also important in the novel. Latin, in the form of phrases taken from the Vulgate and the Catholic liturgy as well as from classical texts, is woven through the texture of Mrs Curren's consciousness: her mode of thought and expression tends to the etymological and the allusive. In this paper I will consider the part these two discourses, classical and biblical, seemingly incompatible in some ways and overlapping in others, play in shaping the character of Mrs Curren. I will consider how the Latin language in her internal monologue and speech mediates her interactions with other characters and her reactions to particular events in the novel.

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