n English in Africa - Elizabeth Costello as a Socratic figure

Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



The figure of Elizabeth Costello, Coetzee's fictional persona, has proven to be very controversial. Reviewers and critics of and , and even characters within those works, have described her as irrational and confused, even mad. Both her audience in and reviewers of this work have found her attack on reason to be excessive and her Holocaust analogy offensive. Abraham Stern, a character in , an ageing Jewish poet and academic, is so offended that he withdraws in protest from the dinner in Costello's honour. Reviewers and critics like Douglas Cruikshank have considered her case for the sympathetic imagination to be inconclusive or unconvincing, with Cruikshank describing her as someone "who comes off as something of a pill, a piece of work, a monopolizer of oxygen and presumably no treat as a mother-in-law."

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