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Farrant, Marc, Easton, Kai and Wittenberg, Hermann, eds. (2021) J.M. Coetzee & the Archive: fiction, theory, and autobiography. London: Bloomsbury.

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A timely collection of essays that explores and illustrates the significant ‘archival turn’ in Coetzee Studies and the questions this raises for contemporary literary theory around authorship and autobiography. Since the acquisition of the Coetzee Collection by the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas in 2011,   Coetzee scholars have travelled to see the traces of his authorship, from the earliest drafts and notebooks, to the research notes and digital records that document his later career as both writer and academic. Marking 50 years of Coetzee’s career as a ‘fictioneer’ and Coetzee’s 80th birthday, this book of essays begins by looking back to that legendary New Year’s Day —January 1st, 1970 — inscribed in the first manuscript page of his first novel, Dusklands.  Cutting-edge and interdisciplinary in approach, raising questions on the tensions, contradictions and discoveries of archival research, the volume sets out to investigate the historical, cultural and aesthetic contexts of his early and middle work, which form the bulk of his manuscript collection at the Ransom Center. Contributors also address the earlier collection at Houghton Library, Harvard University that migrated to Texas; the more recent work which has yet to be archived; the extensive range of materials beyond the manuscripts — family albums, school notebooks, correspondence, etc.; and collections in other institutions such as the Amazwi South African Museum of Literature in Makhanda, Eastern Cape.  Navigating Coetzee’s interests from literature to music and photography, from auto/biography to philosophy, animals and embodied life, this is a book about the archive as both theory and practice.  By situating Coetzee’s archive to explore the wider ‘archival turn’ in the humanities, the book also suggests that a literary engagement with the past is crucial to a recovery of culture in the present.

Item Type: Edited Book or Journal Volume
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts
ISBN: 9781350165953
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2020 15:08

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