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Banished, disgraced yet obstinate : the politics of humiliation in J.M. Coetzee's novels

Nashef, Hania A. M (2007) Banished, disgraced yet obstinate : the politics of humiliation in J.M. Coetzee's novels. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94550) (KAR id:94550)


Ever since J.M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003, numerous critical studies have been published, enriching the research previously in print. Although his work has been examined from various angles, a number of critics have approached his work strictly through postcolonial thought viewing him as a writer mainly concerned with South African issues. Though such a reading is partially correct, it stands to ignore a major aspect of his work, namely his concern with universal suffering and the inevitable humiliation of the human being. Furthermore, Coetzee’s novels introduce the reader to a world perceived in terms of a Beckettian kind of minimalism, which, on the surface, may not be as severe as Beckett’s own world. Several theorists have referred to the theme of human degradation in Coetzee’s work but no detailed study has been made of this area of concern especially with respect to how pervasive it is across Coetzee’s literary output to date. This study examines what the novels portray as the circumstances that contribute to the humiliation of the individual, namely the abuse of language, master and slave interplay, aging and senseless waiting and how these conditions, singularly or in unison can lead to the alienation and marginalization of the individual. I also demonstrate how the individual’s world is punctuated by dwindling resources and fading hopes, with no prospect of improvement. I begin by exploring authoritarian language’s use as a method of subjugation and torture, contributing to the shaming of the other. Secondly, I investigate the role language has played in relation to the Coetzean female characters and how it with its patriarchal essence estranges, subjugates and degrades the female. I discuss the methodology of master/slave relationships and their consequences for both the Subject and Other. Here, I examine the cruelty and violence that are practised against the natives, the destruction of a land that is essentially foreign to the settler, and the stereotyping of the native into an inferior other. In addition, I examine how rape is used as a method of control and oppression. I then look at the role of old age in Coetzee’s novels, its implications and the various ways the characters deal with their endings. Approaching the end, the Coetzean character rummages through the remnants of an incomplete life. Initially inept in a world that has discarded them, old age becomes more difficult to endure, accentuating the characters’ sense of alienation and humiliation. Finally, I examine the method with which the majority of Coetzee’s characters continuously wait for an invisible saviour, a Godot-like figure, craving a form of salvation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94550
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2023 15:41 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2023 14:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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