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Reading the Unspeakable: Rape in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace

Lucy Valerie Graham
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 29, No. 2 (Jun., 2003), pp. 433-444
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3557371
Page Count: 12
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Reading the Unspeakable: Rape in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace
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Abstract

Of Daphne Rooke's Mittee, J. M. Coetzee writes: 'to her credit, Rooke does not indulge in the ne plus ultra of colonial horror fantasies, the rape of a white woman'. Since he is evidently aware of the volatile nature of this subject, what compels Coetzee to portray the rape of a white woman by three black men in Disgrace? One may well ask whether ethical scriptings of interracial rape are possible in a context where representations of sexual violence, under the old regime, supported racial injustice. Unsurprisingly, Coetzee's latest novel has been accused of racism, of feeding national hysteria, and of reflecting white anxieties in the post-apartheid context. I argue that the novel performs a subversion of 'black peril' narrative, and propose that the hidden stories of the characters Melanie and Lucy have relevance in the South African context and have unavoidable implications for the reader of Disgrace.

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