Discursive anarchism in J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians

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Morakot Pan-Iam


Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s concept of allegory, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theoretical framework of anarchism, this paper explores J. M. Coetzee’s discursive practices in Waiting for the Barbarians with particular attention to the textual perception and employment of allegory as language and language as allegory. My argument is formed by the analyses offered by Derek Attridge in J. M. Coetzee & The Ethics of Reading (2004), and Jan Wilm in The Slow Philosophy of J. M. Coetzee (2016). I shall argue that Coetzee’s practice of language and representation envisions an aesthetic articulation of discursive anarchism, a term which is taken to describe a kind of wild dispersing or disordering of order/language. A close examination of the novel’s pointed employment of the term “allegory” including its textual representation both in form and concept will be presented in the first section to highlight allegory as an art of fragmentation. The discussion in the following sections will revolve around the analyses of dream sequences, which shall expand Coetzee’s spatial and political discursivity. The exploration of language and discursive anarchism will also be discussed to reinforce the claim that Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians is a novel of discursive fragmentation and anarchism.


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