PhD student

Room: E834

charlotta.elmgren@english.su.se 

In my PhD project, provisionally titled “Poetics of the Child in the Novels of J.M. Coetzee,” I put forward the idea of the child as a particularly productive site for engaging with the novels of J.M. Coetzee. Using close readings as a point of departure, the dissertation places the novels in dialogue with Coetzee’s non-fiction as well as with selected critical theory, drawing attention to Coetzee’s consistent concern in and outside of his fiction with questions opened up by figures of the child. The dissertation shows how figures of the child help illuminate questions pertaining to tensions between “truths” and fictions of the self; challenges to Western constructions of the child/self; alternative educational ideals; the transmission/rejection of tradition; and symbolic play vs rational discourse as alternative ways of dealing with the world.

Reading Coetzee’s novels in the light of figures of the child as outlined above, the dissertation not only offers new perspectives on ethical and aesthetic concerns customarily addressed in Coetzee scholarship; but also shows how Coetzee’s writing invites interrogations that bring together and cross-fertilise Coetzee criticism with discourses of childhood studies, play and educational philosophy. Ultimately, the dissertation advances the idea of figures of the child as generative of an evolving poetics of playfulness, uncertainty and resistance that can be traced throughout Coetzee’s oeuvre.

In my MA thesis, “Unhomed and Unstrung: Reflections on Hospitality in J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man” (2012), I argued that Slow Man represents age as an important aspect of responsiveness to the other/the unexpected, and also reflected on how acts of hospitality can and cannot succeed in creating a home for the subject.