“It Sounds Like a Quotation”: J. M. Coetzee and the Power oF Shakespearean Allusion
At first blush, the idea of J. M. Coetzee’s use of Shakespeare as a resource seems so unpromising as to be a nonstarter. In his autobiographical sequence, Boyhood and Youth,1 Coetzee documents a lack of engagement with Shakespeare that amounts to rejection. His first encounter, through his parents, begins with the assumption that “if his father likes Shakespeare then Shakespeare must be bad” (Boyhood 104). The effort “to discover why people say Shakespeare is great” (104) is soon abandoned. Subsequent contact with Julius Caesar in school in Mr. Whalen’s English class is equally uninspiring (138–39). Later, in England, Shakespeare is merely a source of income through tutoring (Youth 2). Ultimately arriving at point of active dislike—“he is in the process of losing his taste for Shakespeare” (21)—Coetzee records his criticism of Shakespeare’s “declamatory pitch”: “But Chaucer keeps a nice ironic distance from his authorities. And, unlike Shakespeare, he does not get into a froth about things and start ranting” (21).
KeywordsEmotional Power Cipal Method Mutual Election Belated Intervention Sagging Breast
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