Forthcoming: J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature

Forthcoming, this June, from Columbia University Press: a collection of essays entitled J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature, edited by Anton Leist and Peter Singer. To visit the publisher’s webpage for the book, please click here.

Here is the publisher’s description of the book:

In 2003, the South African writer J. M. Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for a tradition of work that questioned widely shared ethical assumptions. In his portrayal of racial repression, sexual politics, the guises of reason, and human beings’ hypocrisy toward animals and nature, Coetzee had become, in the words of the prize committee, “a scrupulous doubter, ruthless in his criticism of the cruel rationalism and cosmetic morality of western civilization.”

Tackling Coetzee’s extensive and extraordinary corpus and paying particular attention to the author’s representation of the human-animal relationship, Anton Leist and Peter Singer deeply explore Coetzee’s impact on ethical theory and philosophy. They assemble an outstanding group of contributors who debate the personally ethical and political through the prism of Coetzee’s work. They also confront the elementary conditions of life, the origins of morality, the recognition of value in others, the sexual dynamics between men and women, and the possibility of equality in a postcolonial society. With its wide-ranging consideration of philosophical issues, especially in relation to literary texts, this volume stands alone in its extraordinary dialogue between ethical inquiry and narrative technique.

And here is the table of contents:

  • Introduction: Coetzee and Philosophy, by Anton Leist and Peter Singer
  • Part I. People, Human Relationships, and Politics
  • The Paradoxes of Power in the Early Novels of J. M. Coetzee, by Robert Pippin
    • [note: a draft of Pippin’s chapter — which I’ve read and recommend highly — is available for download on his personal website; to download it, click here]
  • Disgrace, Desire, and the Dark Side of the New South Africa, by Adriaan van Heerden
  • Ethical Thought and the Problem of Communication: A Strategy for Reading Diary of a Bad Year, by Jonathan Lear
  • Torture and Collective Shame, by Jeff McMahan
  • Part II. Humans, Animals, and Morality
  • Converging Convictions: Coetzee and His Characters on Animals, by Karen Dawn and Peter Singer
  • Coetzee and Alternative Animal Ethics, by Elisa Aaltola
  • Writing the Lives of Animals, by Ido Geiger
  • Sympathy and Scapegoating in J. M. Coetzee, by Andy Lamey
  • Part III. Rationality and Human Lives
  • Against Society, Against History, Against Reason: Coetzee’s Archaic Postmodernism, by Anton Leist
  • Coetzee’s Critique of Reason, by Martin Woessner
  • J. M. Coetzee, Moral Thinker, by Alice Crary
  • Being True to Fact: Coetzee’s Prose of the World, by Pieter Vermeulen
  • Part IV. Literature, Literary Style, and Philosophy
  • Truth and Love Together at Last: Style, Form, and Moral Vision in Age of Iron, by Samantha Vice
  • The Lives of Animals and the Form-Content Connection, by Jennifer Flynn
  • Irony and Belief in Elizabeth Costello, by Michael Funk Deckard and Ralph Palm
  • Coetzee’s Hidden Polemic with Nietzsche, by Alena Dvorakova


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