oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - J. M. Coetzee : reluctant public intellectual

Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



Why should concern about public intellectuals be topical everywhere, not least in South Africa as evident from recent publications by Jonathan Jansen and Themba Mbadlanyana? And why focus on notoriously publicity shy, writer-teacher J. M. Coetzee who critic Shaun de Waal once called "the Greta Garbo of South African literature"? What can be gleaned from a disjuncture between "sceptical rationality" and "sincere outrage" that is the subject of Coetzee's deliberations on censorship, but more importantly what insight can be had from the hauntingly dense narrative "He and His Man", read in lieu of the customary address expected of a laureate at the occasion of the prestigious award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm in December 2003? These questions, I suggest, open a window into our current state of the commerce of thinking, into the space of Literature, and of our imagining a place for ourselves in a world ruled by economic rationality and fashioned by celebrity culture; a global world that places insoluble tension between the "intellectual" and the "public".

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