The Ethics of Proximity in Literature: An Ethical Reading of Immediacy in J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron and Foe
In this project, I present a reading of ethics and politics in John Maxwell Coetzee’s Foe (1986) and Age of Iron (1990) based on Emmanuel Levinas’ philosophy on proximity. By deploying the ethics of proximity into the ethical reading of the relationships between Mrs. Curren and Vercueil in Age of Iron and between Susan and Friday in Foe, a sense of resistance towards the political dimensions of violence is established. The consciousness of life in South Africa are an inevitable background presence in both of the novels. In Age of Iron, the political context of apartheid incorporates the discursive modes of systematic rule, racial classification and retributive violence and in Foe, the tracings of colonial oppression is detected in Friday’s tortured body and the silencing of his figure in the text. In the ethical reading of the immediacy in the relationship between Mrs. Curren and Vercueil, a sense of ethical peace originating in the fellowship with the other human is distinguished, which destabilizes the dimensions of violence in the political context of apartheid. In Foe, I adapt Levinas’ philosophy on proximity and language into the ethical reading of the contact between Susan and Friday in the island setting of the novel. In the relationship of proximity between these particular characters, a sense of pure communication is illuminated, which enables a sense of healing in the text.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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