Date of Award
J.M. Coetzee (1940- ). Life and times of Michael K -- Criticism and interpretation, Literature and society
This paper will attempt to articulate how idleness functions in J.M. Coetzee’s 1983 novel Life and Times of Michael K, and to analyze how it might be undermining or commenting on the idea of idleness which was discursively produced in South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries. Coetzee develops a commentary on the European representation of idleness in his book White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa, which for my purposes will serve as a jumping off point for a reading of Michael K. Furthermore, I will seek to examine the ways in which idleness does not necessarily stand by itself, but in fact signals a broader modality of living enacted by the novel’s titular character. I argue that in the novel, idleness constitutes a mode of being which resists thinking of the future as an imaginative repository for the generational transmission of property and destabilizes a narrative of progress achieved through work. The figure of Michael K embodies not only idleness but also a form of tending which engages in a similar type of destabilization, as it too undermines the establishment of property.
Barrett, Patrick, ""Like a Parasite Dozing in the Gut": Idleness and Tending in J.M. Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K" (2016). University Honors Theses. Paper 329.