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Pretending you are an archeologist, examine Reinhart’s and McDonald’s essays. What would you say are the primary values of those who write such essays and how are these values reflected in the conventions, language, and features of the two essays?

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4: Disgrace and the Neighbor: An Interchange with Bill McDonald

Kenneth Reinhard

IN HIS ESSAY, “‘IS IT TO LATE TO EDUCATE THE EYE?’: David Lurie, Richard of St. Victor, and ‘vision as eros’ in Disgrace,” Bill McDonald is primarily concerned with the nature of erotic vision in Coetzee’s novel, and the pos- sibilities — and limitations — of the redemption that vision represents. The central character in Disgrace, David Lurie, is a literary critic, and McDonald has taken seriously the account we are given of Lurie’s main scholarly works, in particular, his monograph on the twelfth-century Christian mys- tic, Richard of St. Victor. McDonald shows how this work, as well as Lurie’s books on Boito’s opera Mefistofele and Wordsworth’s sense of history, informs the development of Lurie’s character, as well as Coetzee’s novel on a more structural level. McDonald describes the transformation of Lurie’s “disgrace” into a kind of “grace,” parallel with, as McDonald writes, “the contemplative, ascetic spirit” if not the precise stages of the soul’s journey to redemption described in Richard’s writings. Coetzee’s novel, however, works in a modernist or perhaps postmodernist mode, with an ambiguous conclusion — ironic, ambivalent, indeed, according to McDonald, incon- clusive. Although he does not discuss in detail the surprisingly harsh criti- cism Disgrace has received for the various perspectives on post-apartheid South Africa that some readers have attributed to it, McDonald makes it clear that the novel’s politics must not be understood as either an independ- ent issue or as an allegorical counterpart to the various sexual relationships presented in it. Rather, the politics of Coetzee’s novel are intrinsically erotic. No “vision” that the novel may present for the future of South Africa can be separated from the varieties of violent sexual experience it represents or imagines, from seduction and rape to prostitution and adultery. Moreover, McDonald shows how this violence is not merely understood as associated with sexuality, as we might expect, but with love; such “violent love” may not only be inevitable in the traumatized landscape of South Africa, it may be the very condition of salvation. As McDonald indicates, such an account of love’s salutary violence is central to Richard of St. Victor’s thinking, especially in his Four Degrees of Violent Charity, as is evi- dent from its title (“charity” of course is the translation of caritas, the Latin version of agape, used by early Christianity to signify non-erotic modes of

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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94 ! KENNETH REINHARD

love). McDonald’s reading does not condemn Coetzee for the violence of his representations of eros, but sees that whatever political vision the novel may have must be understood as not incidentally but necessarily, and even redemptively, bound up with that violence.

I have two sets of related questions and comments about Bill McDonald’s reading of Disgrace, both of which ultimately involve the role of Richard of St. Victor’s writings in the novel. The first has to do with the nature of vision in the novel, and the possibilities of redemption that may or may not be available through it; the second has to do with the nature of social relations between people who are neither friends nor enemies, the question of the neighbor in the novel. Both vision and the neighbor are, finally, bound up with love in Richard of St. Victor’s writings and Coetzee’s novel. And for both Richard and Coetzee, love implies a certain violence that cannot remain merely contemplative.

First, what are the redemptive possibilities and limitations of vision? For Richard of St. Victor, in the tradition of the Pseudo-Dionysius and earlier Neoplatonism, contemplative “vision” is a spiritual tool that har- nesses erotic drives for the purpose of mystical union with God. In St. Augustine’s distinction, it is for the goal of the enjoyment (frui) of its object rather than instrumental “use” (uti) — an enjoyment that is for its own sake and, finally, only completely realized in the form of enjoyment of God.1 For David Lurie in Disgrace, vision is not only the primary conduit for his sexual attractions but, as McDonald points out, the rhetorical lure that he uses to seduce Melanie Isaacs in (and out of) his literature class, in tendentious figures such as his description of poetry as a “flash of revela- tion and a flash of response. Like lightning. Like falling in love” (13). Lurie’s question, which is taken up by McDonald, “is it too late to educate the eye?” could be reformulated as the question of whether Lurie can find in his own personal and intellectual history the resources to transform his erotic “use” of the object of vision into something closer to Augustine’s notion of enjoyment. McDonald writes, “It is above all in his visionary life . . . that David achieves a measure of self-knowledge and aesthetic break- through that culminate in loving ethical action.” The three central visions that McDonald describes in the novel — Lurie’s “re-envisioning” of his opera; the stream of images of women from his past during Melanie’s play; and, at the end of the novel, Lurie’s vision of his daughter Lucy and the possibility of a new life — all point to what McDonald calls “an ethic that resituates desire in full recognition of the other.”

My first question is not only whether or not it is indeed “too late” for David Lurie to redeem his vision, to transform it from sexual “use” to higher “enjoyment,” for the sake of self-knowledge and ethical action, but whether it is possible at all. That is, can a transformation of the nature of vision — whether erotic, intellectual, or spiritual — constitute ethical transformation? Does it have such resources in the novel or is it fundamen-

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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DISGRACE AND THE NEIGHBOR ! 95

tally limited, bound up with a model of knowledge that remains spectato- rial (and even specular) and without either sufficient passivity or activity to be transformative? And even if a certain possibility of subjective change were available to David Lurie by means of vision, would it really have any significance for political change in South Africa? Insofar as Lurie is the central character and consciousness of the novel, we might expect the question of whether or not his personal disgrace can lead to any kind of redemptive grace to be key to the novel’s ethical or political significance. Indeed, I would argue that Lurie’s personal path of penance as the loving Angel of Death for abandoned animals is merely personal — rather than an act meant to transform the world he lives in, it merely serves to change his relationship to that world. Finally, Lurie’s subjective transformation, such as it is, is not what the novel — or the reader — really cares about. Lurie is a dead end, the last of a line. His grandchild will not be his, will not transmit his culture or values, but will be part of something completely unknowable and absolutely independent of him. I think it is clear that the character of David Lurie changes to a certain extent over the novel, at least in terms of his erotic objects; although he continues to frequent prostitutes when inclined, he also has had a less illicit and pathetic, if still not quite legitimate, relationship with a (married) woman of his own age, Bev, and we are inclined to doubt that there will be many more Melanies in his life. But all David has ever gained from relationships is “self-knowledge” as a mode of intellectual narcissism and that is all that he seems to achieve by the end of the book. It is fine for David to accomplish some measure of understanding of himself, but such knowledge is not the same as transfor- mation, and may not be an indication of real change — either on a per- sonal or on a political level. Indeed, it may be an impediment to change, an imaginary screen against a vision that David cannot face. “Love of the neighbor,” we should recall, is not predicated on or conditioned by self- knowledge, but self-love — and “love” must be taken, as both Richard of St. Victor and Freud do, as intrinsically violent, ambivalent, and potentially not only self-transformative, but transformative of a world. As McDonald indicates, David Lurie’s characteristic vision at the beginning is erotic in a detached, analytic mode; vision as sexual knowledge, we might say, whether in evaluating his regular prostitute Soraya or Melanie, the young student on whom he fixes his eye. Vision is the first moment of sexual penetration for Lurie, and the end is possession, consumption, and finally evacuation of the object. This kind of erotic vision is fully parallel with Lurie’s literary critical methodology, which is again more about self- knowledge than knowledge of something outside of himself, something truly other. Lurie’s sexual and critical vision are both, we might say, “jaded”: he sees merely what he has already seen, and there is nothing new under the sun, merely variations on a theme (whether poetic, musical, or feminine).

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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96 ! KENNETH REINHARD

The first of the three visions that McDonald describes in the novel centers on David Lurie’s opera on Byron and Teresa Guiccioli; as McDonald indicates, Lurie finds himself surprised by his own rewriting of Teresa, who comes to resemble the middle-aged Bev, a comic figure, rather than the sort of suggestible younger woman that is his usual fare. Whereas Lurie had originally planned to “borrow” the melodies for his opera from a composer such as Gluck, this revised Teresa now acts as his muse for the composition of a simple, folk-based but original score. For McDonald, this transformation of Teresa-as-Bev represents Lurie moving “beyond the narcissism” that had prevented him from being open to something truly other than himself. Nevertheless, as McDonald also writes, “she becomes his guide to a new purpose, and a new self-understanding.” However, I wonder if Lurie’s “self-understanding” is anything more than that: self- understanding, a more intellectualized mode of his fundamental narcis- sism? Is he not a character who, in this scene of re-visionary understanding and the similar scenes that follow, merely comes to reflect more deeply on himself? Do his visions ever show him anything other than himself, that is, any other human being? Indeed, even his work at the animal shelter and crematorium does not directly involve him with other people; it is as if he does it for the sake of seeing himself as charitable, as relating to and offer- ing loving service to another creature, even in a mode as violent as provid- ing the mercy of an easy death to an unwanted animal.

The second sequence of Lurie’s visions remains just as solipsistic. In his reading of the scene where David watches Melanie acting in Sunset at the Globe Salon, McDonald argues that “David’s eye has been educated by his reflections,” and he no longer sees Melanie as an object of sexual desire, but more as “a surrogate daughter whose excellent performance he wishes to take pride in.” This leads to a visionary sequence in which Lurie sud- denly is flooded with “images of women he has known on two conti- nents,” the women he has slept with and, sometimes, loved. McDonald understands this image as “an empathetic rather than narcissistic upwelling”; and even though he points to the irony in Lurie describing the women as having all “enriched” him, using the same infelicitous word that he had earlier used to justify his relationship with Melanie, McDonald neverthe- less regards this sequence of visions as representative of authentic ethical or spiritual progress, along the lines of the path described by Richard of St. Victor. But once again it is simply Lurie himself who is the focus of this “enrichment”: the women swirling in his vision like leaves, “a fair field of folk” as Lurie puts it, quoting Piers Plowman and alluding to a tradition of such visions in Homer, Dante, and elsewhere, are dancing on his private stage, as supporting actresses or foils for, again, his self-discovery. Once again, vision is a path of development, but one that has little to do with the encounter with other people; once again Lurie is working out his own psychodrama in a vision that is hardly his own, but borrowed from other

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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DISGRACE AND THE NEIGHBOR ! 97

writers and artists. Indeed, McDonald agrees that the vision has “limited impact . . . on David’s action,” insofar as, upon leaving the theater, he comes across a pathetic, drugged-out prostitute, even younger than Melanie, and has sex with her. McDonald writes, “Plainly, even violently, Coetzee refuses any idealization of David’s vision; by itself it is not enough. But it may clear the ground for a more important new beginning with his flesh and blood daughter, Lucy.”

There is little indication, however, that David Lurie’s increasing self- knowledge, as demonstrated by this sequence of visions, has any conse- quences beyond, well, self-knowledge. Has he become more ethical? Has he changed in other than purely subjective ways? And even if his self- reflection has indeed transformed his sense of himself, should we care? Is Coetzee and the novel really very interested in David Lurie’s personal transformation or lack thereof? Perhaps; but I believe that Lurie is some- thing of a “lure” in the novel, a red herring that leads the unwary reader into the trap of identification and the illusory assumption that a change of vision is the same as a vision of change. We are likely to regard Lurie as debauched or at least foolish and strangely self-destructive at the begin- ning of the novel; but are not his attempts to connect with his estranged and damaged daughter, his relationship with Bev, and his growing care for abandoned animals, all presented to us as invitations to empathize and even identify with him? There is no doubt that he has been “enriched” as a character by these developments, but if we are satisfied by these signs of his ethical growth, aren’t we also tacitly endorsing his unrepentant claim that he has “enriched” Melanie by seducing her? And further, doesn’t this slippery slope become even more unstable when we realize that such a claim could similarly be made by Lucy’s rapists, if they were as educated as Lurie — that they were merely “enriching” her? To understand the ques- tion of his development as an ethical individual or as a literary character as being central to the novel’s mythos and ethos is to remain within a para- digm of subjectivity and responsibility that may not operate in the new South Africa. David Lurie, I believe, will be left out of whatever brave new world it is that Lucy’s child will be born into.2

The third vision that McDonald describes involves a painterly scene of David watching his pregnant daughter, Lucy, working in her fields. Here Lurie seems to accept Lucy’s decision to keep the child and to marry Petrus, even accepting the fact that she will become a member of the same family as the men who raped her. Lurie sees himself as the grandfather of a new lineage that will derive from the birth, and convert its violent origins into a new beginning, a new race mixing whites and blacks in South Africa — even if his contribution to it will quickly dwindle and likely be forgot- ten. So what do we make of Lurie’s vision of his daughter as a figure in a painting, “a Sargent or Bonnard”? No longer does he see her in more or less erotic terms, but as something more aestheticized and allegorical, “the

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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98 ! KENNETH REINHARD

eternal feminine” as he puts it, a sort of earth mother, or Principle of Generation. “The truth is,” Coetzee writes, Lurie “has never had much of an eye for rural life, despite all his reading of Wordsworth. Not much of an eye for anything, except pretty girls; and where has that got him? Is it too late to educate the eye?” (218). I think that we must take this as a real question, not merely rhetorical; and I am inclined to respond, Yes — it is too late for David Lurie, but for Lucy, her child, and South Africa, and finally for us, the book’s readers, the question of David’s vision must be subordinated to larger questions and concerns. In contemplating the scene of the pregnant Lucy working in the fields, “becoming a peasant,” David sees her world as a painting, a study in color and light, figure and ground; he may not have had much of an eye for rural life, but with his daughter at the center, allegorized and redeemed, he is happy to compose a pretty picture of the future. And what about Lucy in this painterly scene? Is she gazing into a brave new post-apartheid world on the horizon? No; she is absorbed in the world in which she is living and working; she is making a world, not painting one. After having watched his daughter from a dis- tance, and self-consciously composing her as the subject of a painting, Lurie finally breaks the “spell” he had cast by calling out to Lucy, and she replies, surprised, “I didn’t hear you”; but she might have said, I didn’t see you. And as if to suggest just this, the narrator remarks that Lucy’s dog, Katy, “stares shortsightedly in his [Lurie’s] direction” (218). There is no real place of significance for Lurie in Lucy’s future, in the future of South Africa; she simply can’t see him. But more that this, she does not “see” in a visionary sense at all: she is not a subject who imagines possible futures, but she is fully caught up in the activities of making. And this may involve a certain degree of willful blindness, both to the terrible past and to the uncertain future.

The world that David Lurie gazes upon is what Heidegger calls a “world picture,” an aestheticized and allegorically pre-interpreted image.3 It is true that he is not “in the picture,” but no matter: he is the artist who has set up the picture and the subject for whom it is composed. For David, vision always means seeing himself seeing: ultimately, whatever the object, his vision is always for the sake of establishing himself as Seer. Lucy and her offspring will always remain no more than an image for his eye, a moral for his story, rather than fellow creatures with whom he may share a history and a world. But this suggests another reading of the question “is it too late to educate the eye?”: David’s eye and his consciousness dominate the novel, and finally there is no redemption available for him. But it is perhaps not too late to educate the reader’s eye, and this involves precisely breaking with the perspective determined by Lurie, realizing that it is not exemplary but a visual “lure,” the lure, precisely, of the visual. Finally, vision by itself, no matter how redeemed or transfigured, no matter how spiritually or historically informed, is not adequate to the requirements of a new South

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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DISGRACE AND THE NEIGHBOR ! 99

Africa; it is the visual opposition of “black” and “white,” after all, that was the basis of apartheid’s regime. To build a new world, or to bring some- thing radically new into the world (a child?), what is required is not vision or knowledge, but, I would like to suggest, love, which, after all, is blind.

My second set of comments, which are connected with the first, have to do with McDonald’s remarks on social love in the novel and on Richard of St. Victor’s notion of condilectio and “violent love.” McDonald describes Richard’s account of the mystical journey as “a path that empha- sizes relationships with others and the importance of full community where love may be enacted.” What Richard calls condilectio, “shared love,” or neighbor love, implies the need for a third party who, as a common object of love for two others, allows their love to achieve a more perfect union without solipsism. Just as the trinitarian account of God requires a triple unity of poles within the Godhead so that God can reflect on himself by means of a mediating element, and in turn be fully loving, so human relations need a third person in order to avoid specular dualism and to transform love from a private to a social affect.

In French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s terms, condilectio would be the love that breaks through the tendency to “imaginary” insularity for the sake of a more authentically “symbolic” relationship, one based on differ- ence and mediation rather than the immediacy of fusion. But for Lacan, neighbor love ultimately aims at something else, a third element, neither imaginary nor symbolic, but real. The neighbor as “real” implies the trau- matic alterity that the other embodies or includes within him or herself, as an “intimate exteriority” — the unfathomable desire of the other that is more fundamental to the subject than its sense of self. For Lacan, “to love our neighbor as our self” is to encounter what is most singularly strange and disturbing in the other person, what is most rageful, perverse, or dis- gusting, and unknowable, not available for empathy, not recognizable — yet to acknowledge that dark abyss as the figure of our own unconscious desire. In his seminar from 1959–60, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan distinguishes the easy gestures of a “philanthropy,” the charity (if not caritas) that imagines the other’s desires and needs on the model of one’s own, from a more radical possibility of loving the neighbor. Lacan draws on the example of the fourth-century bishop, Saint Martin of Tours, who famously shares his cloak with a naked beggar he happens upon, as a negative exemplum of neighbor love, beyond the ethics of the Good:

As long as it’s a question of the good, there no problem; our own and our neighbor’s are of the same material. Saint Martin shares his cloak, and a great deal is made of it. Yet it is after all a simple question of training; material is by its very nature made to be disposed of — it belongs to the other as much as it belongs to me. We are no doubt touching a primitive requirement in the need to be satisfied there, for the beggar is naked. But perhaps over and above that need to be clothed, he was begging for

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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100 ! KENNETH REINHARD

something else, namely that Saint Martin kill him or fuck him. In any encounter there’s a big difference in meaning between the response of philanthropy and that of love.4

Lacan’s critique of Saint Martin’s gesture, as characteristic of a certain mode of ethical reason and moral utilitarianism, is that it remains at the level of the other’s need, never touching on the question of desire — on what the other is lacking on a more fundamental level. It is of course of primary importance to recognize the purely animal requirements of every human being — clothing, shelter, food, etc. — but the response to the neighbor in terms of such needs does not require my encounter with what is truly other in the other, and in that sense is not really what Lacan means by ethical. In fact such a gesture risks acting as a screen designed precisely to conceal from myself what might be disturbing in the other, what Lacan calls the other’s jouissance: its strange, unfathomable “enjoyment,” intrin- sically transgressive and singularly human, and profoundly more difficult to address than animal needs. Lacan’s notion of the neighbor’s jouissance is by no means identical with Richard of St. Victor’s Augustinian account of condilectio as “enjoyment,” but in both cases the relationship to the other is understood as non-instrumental, as an absolute end in itself, and as addressed to something that exceeds my possibilities of vision or knowl- edge and may in fact undermine my most fundamental self-certainties. The love of the neighbor that Lacan goes on to describe in the acts of other (women) saints involves incorporating the horror of the other: joyfully eating the excrement of a sick man, drinking water in which a leper’s feet had been washed, etc. These are not acts of “perversion” according to Lacan, but on a fundamental level, acts of neighbor love, attempts to love the other person not in spite of what is most horrific and vile in them, but precisely for that horror, as the sign of their alterity, which is elevated to the status of a sublime object.

Can we see Lucy’s response to her rape and impregnation as a version of neighbor love? Is her willingness to marry Petrus and to merge her life with those of her assailants a kind of loving-kindness that has nothing to do with religious obligation or social necessity, but enacts a fully conscious and self-willed decision? There is clearly no “identification with the aggres- sor” going on here; Lucy does not see herself as “like” Petrus’s family, does not make herself one of them, will clearly always remain outside, even when she lives within Petrus’s walls and sleeps between his sheets. Indeed, she does not will herself to see him as “my neighbor” — there is no act of charity, no Christian self-abasement in her action. Can we even suggest that her decision is a response to a call she has heard — a call not from some transcendental source, but from the boys who have raped her, a reply to their obscene, perverse, cruel acts of neighbor love?

In the post-apartheid South Africa of Disgrace, the relationship that best describes the situation of blacks and whites is that of neighbors, with

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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DISGRACE AND THE NEIGHBOR ! 101

all its complex ambivalence, and all its sense of ethical or political impera- tive. Already before the rape, the relationship between Lucy and Petrus was complicated; certainly not one of master and servant, nor exactly one of friendship. But after the rape, with David’s lingering question of whether Petrus was in some way complicit with the crime, and Petrus’s emerging independence and unpredictability, things have changed:

In the old days one could have had it out with Petrus. In the old days one could have had it out to the extent of losing one’s temper and sending him packing and hiring someone in his place. But though Petrus is paid a wage, Petrus is no longer, strictly speaking, hired help. It is hard to say what Petrus is, strictly speaking. The word that seems to serve best, how- ever, is neighbour. Petrus is a neighbour who at present happens to sell his labour. He sells his labour under contract, unwritten contract, and that contract makes no provision for dismissal on grounds of suspicion. It is a new world they live in, he and Lucy and Petrus. Petrus knows it, and he knows it, and Petrus knows that he knows it. (116–17)

The relationship of neighbors is bound more by unwritten and tacit agree- ments than by written law or explicit rules. Its rules are local rather than universal, and are constantly evolving, constantly reformulated, for the sake of maintaining equilibrium and a certain possibility of openness between worlds that allows for the inhabitation of any particular world. The situation of a neighborhood is singular and contingent: one does not usually settle in a place because of one’s neighbors, nor does one usually leave simply to escape particular neighbors. When violations of the unwrit- ten agreements that regulate neighborhoods become intolerable, the level of aggressivity tends to escalate, since there is no clear path to outside adjudication. But the neighbor is also the object of an injunction in Judaism and Christianity, to love your neighbor as yourself; and this com- mandment confronts the ambiguous and ambivalent actual relationship with the neighbor, always provisional, always contingent, with a transcen- dental moral imperative — the imperative, precisely, to come closer to that strange contingency.

I think that McDonald is absolutely right in suggesting that Richard of St. Victor’s writings on social love are central to Coetzee’s understand- ing of the issues faced by his characters in his novel, and the novel as such. Perhaps the novel’s central question for post-apartheid South Africa can be articulated most simply as a variation of the lawyer’s question to Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan: who is my neighbor? What does it mean to love my neighbor? Neighbor love in post apartheid South Africa may indeed be a “violent love,” one that is fundamentally ambivalent, essentially mixed with hate, but one that may lead to a new kind of social relationship. This is not to say that Coetzee has romanticized the violence of neighbor love as the “necessary” price that the white South Africans must pay for their long oppression of the black South Africans. Although

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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102 ! KENNETH REINHARD

it is never completely clear how Lucy herself regards her rape and marriage, it is never portrayed or imagined as a “just” violence that must be accepted as penance for the years of apartheid and other forms of institutional vio- lence. Rather, as Lucy understands it, and Coetzee seems to concur, the rape is simply violence, motivated by pure, personal hatred, and as such unredeemable. It is not the price that must be paid, the retributive justice that will allow for the annealing of the country’s wounds. But however non-signifying the event of the rape itself was, however blind was its fury, reasonless its commission, even with the weight of history and suffering that seems to unleash it, Lucy’s decision to accept the child that has resulted from it has consequences. The outcome is unforeseeable, not without risk, not necessarily for the good; but her decision is absolutely her own. And it is not motivated, as far as we can tell, by anything like self- reflection, self-knowledge, self-interest, or any other mode of vision. It is as if Lucy gazes blindly into the future, neither confident nor despairing; she acts but does not know the consequences of her action. That is, her act exceeds calculation, its results are infinite, and in this sense it opens the space for something truly new to emerge in the world.

In Coetzee’s recent book, Diary of a Bad Year, the opening section entitled “The Origin of the State” interrupts a meditation on the nature of citizenship and subjection with a series of encounters between the writer-narrator and his younger female neighbor. A half-imagined open- ing conversation between them centers on the question of urban neigh- boring: “I live on the ground floor and have since 1995 and still I don’t know all my neighbours, I said. Yeah, she said, and no more, meaning, Yes, I hear what you say and I agree, it is tragic not to know who your neigh- bours are, but that is how it is in the big city and I have other things to attend to now, so could we let the present exchange of pleasantries die a natural death.”5 The narrator becomes increasingly obsessed with this attractive neighbor, and his interchanges with her continue to punctuate his reflec- tions on politics and ethics. In the section “On Machiavelli,” Coetzee takes up the question of what it is that allows the common man, our most generic neighbor, to hold fundamentally contradictory political and ethi- cal positions:

The kind of person who calls talkback radio and justifies the use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners holds the double standard in his mind in exactly the same way: without in the least denying the absolute claims of the Christian ethic (love thy neighbour as thyself), such a person approves freeing the hands of the authorities — the army, the secret police — to do whatever may be necessary to protect the public from enemies of the state. (18)

The “typical reaction of liberal intellectuals” to this, according to Coetzee, is to simply see it as a contradiction, an impossible position,

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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DISGRACE AND THE NEIGHBOR ! 103

incoherent. But Coetzee argues that this belief in a necessity that can com- mand incompatible moral and political positions is a defining characteris- tic of modernity. Yes, this member of the talk radio hoi polloi seems to insist, we must love our neighbor; and yes, this may include at times the necessity of torturing our neighbor, if he is also the enemy of the state. Coetzee argues that one cannot counter this by claiming higher moral ground or the virtues of political-ethical consistency. “Rather,” he writes, “you must attack the metaphysical, supra-empirical status of necessità and show that to be fraudulent.” The problem is not simply that we have ambivalent attitudes towards and contradictory beliefs about our neigh- bors, that we do not know the difference between “loving” and “tortur- ing” them, but that we treat our relationships to other people as bound by one or another mode of necessity. Our relationship to our neighbor is not ruled by necessity, but is fundamentally contingent. If there is an imperative that verges on necessity in the command to love the neighbor, it is the necessity of contingency — that is, you must love your neighbor as yourself, whatever that might mean in a particular situation. And that is something that cannot be determined in advance, cannot be codified, any more than can the vagaries of neighboring. It is a universal rule, a cate- gorical imperative, but one that does not operate according to the assumption that it will provide a guide to ethical behavior or a moral rule that could be predictive or prescriptive.

Finally, there is no room in the new world that Lucy is helping build for Lurie and his visions; there is no moral education that can redeem his eye — there is no place for the mode of vision and knowledge that are intrinsic to Lurie’s way of being in the world. The neighbor love that Lucy has embraced, as a real possibility, a serious act and ongoing labor, requires a certain blindness or abandonment of vision, the knowledge it implies, and the subjective position it assumes. But this does not mean that Lurie can- not find personal redemption — it just doesn’t matter to anyone, nor should it. Lurie’s redemption comes in the form of the service he assumes of euthanizing sick or unwanted pets. Earlier in the novel, we are told that what the people who leave their dogs and cats with the Animal Welfare clinic really want is not for them to be “killed,” but simply and naïvely that they “disappear”: “What is being asked for is, in fact, Lösung (German always to hand with an appropriately blank abstraction): sublimation, as alcohol is sublimated from water, leaving no residue, no aftertaste” (142). This characterization of the desire to dispose of the animals as simply the need to find an answer, a Lösung, to their problem without nasty moral residue is clearly criticized as an ethical failure, an act of denial of the pain- ful realities entailed by our responsibility for animals, and perhaps even hints at the “final solution to the Jewish problem” (Endlösung der Judenfrage) proposed by the Nazis. By the end of the book, however, Lurie has found another way of understanding his work of animal eutha-

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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104 ! KENNETH REINHARD

nasia; it is still the execution of a solution, a work of “Lösung” — but now he also understands that this is indeed a euphemism; now “he no longer has difficulty in calling [the killing] by its proper name: love” (219). For Lurie the killing is no longer a Lösung, a “solution,” but an act of Erlösung — that is, redemption, in the sense of release, ransom, or even deliverance in a messianic sense. Whatever personal redemption Lurie achieves at the end of the novel is not by means of vision, but by love, a kind of neighbor love that does not exclude violence but, in his case, even requires it. But the mode of neighbor love that Lurie discovers does not involve him directly in the world of his daughter, her new family, and the new world they are creating (also not without violence). Indeed, that world remains only a picture to him. Lurie’s neighbors are the animals to whom he gives a gentle death, and the world that he finds for himself in this work remains, as Heidegger would say, poor. This is not to scorn the work or the world that it involves; indeed, it is an authentic act of love, albeit a modest one. Not an act of world building, but perhaps for the first time in his life, something real.

Notes 1 In On Christian Doctrine, Augustine writes, “Some things are to be enjoyed, others to be used, and there are others which are to be enjoyed and used . . . To enjoy something is to cling to it with love for its own sake. To use something, however, is to employ it in obtaining that which you love. . . . Thus in this our mortal life, wandering from God, if we wish to return to our native country where we can be blessed we should use this world and not enjoy it . . . The things which are to be enjoyed are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” 9–10. 2 Mark Sanders suggests that Lurie’s seduction of Melanie, as well as the rape of Lucy, can be understood as acts of “manic-reparative colonial phantasy.” But these attempts at “reparations” are undermined not only by the violence that they neces- sarily involve, but by a resistance to closure that is expressed in the novel’s gram- mer. Sanders traces the distinction in Disgrace between the functions of tense and “aspect” — the relative perfection or imperfection, completion or incompleteness, of an act, as in the series “burned, burnt, burnt up” — and argues that the novel uses imperfection to suspend closure and the possibility of a transcendental futurity. See Sanders 2007, 168–85. 3 In his essay “The Age of the World Picture,” Heidegger writes, “The fundamen- tal event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as a picture” . . . “Where the world becomes picture, what is, in its entirety, is juxtaposed as that for which man is prepared and which, correspondingly, he therefore intends to bring before himself and have set before himself . . . Hence world picture, when understood essentially, does not mean a picture of the world but the world conceived and

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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DISGRACE AND THE NEIGHBOR ! 105

grasped as a picture.” To have a “world view,” a vision of the world as a picture, is to see it as composed, ordered, and flattened; structured as a picture set up for us, framed and presented as an object for the speculative eye (Heidegger 1977, 134; 129). 4 See Lacan, 186. Also see Reinhard 1997. 5 Diary of a Bad Year, 5.

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:16:47.

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3: “Is it too late to educate the eye?”: David Lurie, Richard of St. Victor, and “vision as eros” in Disgrace

Bill McDonald

In your own Bosom you bear your Heaven And earth, & all that you behold, tho’ it appears Without, it is Within In your Imagination, of which this world of Mortality is but Shadow.

— Blake, Jerusalem

I

DAVID LURIE’S PAST IS LARGELY A BLANK SLATE to readers of Disgrace. We know only a few things about his academic career, and even less about his upbringing, marriages, politics, and religion. We do learn, in a fast-moving paragraph, that David was raised “in a family of women. As mother, aunts, sisters fell away, they were replaced in due course by mis- tresses, wives, a daughter. The company of women made him a lover of women and, to an extent, a womanizer. . . . That was how he lived for years, for decades, that was the backbone of his life” (7). Mothers and sisters, aunts and wives, then a little later “tourists” and “wives of col- leagues” (7) appear, then immediately “fall away” from our view, with only Rosalind, wife number two, surviving the sentences that created her. We are left largely with surmises: that he received some musical educa- tion, went somewhere to graduate school, has taught for something like a quarter of a century, and thought a photograph of his mother as a young woman worth displaying (15). It’s hard to imagine him with sis- ters.

We also know that David wrote and published three books in earlier phases of his academic career. None of them “caused a stir or even a rip- ple” (4). Though he is “tired of criticism” now, these books that he wrote about “dead people” once commanded his “heart” (162). It gradually becomes clear that the subjects of these books, though unremarked by David’s peers, have remained very much in play in his consciousness and especially his subliminal life, inaugurating, even shaping, aspects of his

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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LURIE, RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR & “VISION AS EROS” IN DISGRACE ! 65

present experience. Two of them — Boito and the Faust Legend: The Genesis of Mefistofele, and Wordsworth and the Burden of the Past — do so in immediately apparent ways; the slow evolution of David’s own opera on Byron and Teresa Guiccioli runs throughout the story, and his specializa- tion in Romanticism — “Wordsworth has been one of my masters” (13) — yields the two classroom scenes we visit, as well as several other impor- tant passages in his narrative. Sandwiched in between, however, is a seem- ingly anomalous project, The Vision of Richard of St. Victor. The writings of an ascetic Scots contemplative in a medieval French monastery seem well removed from David’s artistic interests and melancholy secularism; though David may satirize his students’ “post-Christian” attitudes (32), he seems to share them (for example, 172). Yet as a young scholar David Lurie thought enough of Richard’s work to devote an entire book to him, a task that required considerable time, a mastery of Latin and the com- plexities of medieval theology, and at least some sympathy with the con- templative life. “Vision as eros” is his book’s theme, and while Lurie tells us nothing else directly about his interpretation, Richard’s writing, like Boito’s opera and Wordsworth’s poetry, becomes an intriguing intertext in David’s psychic life, giving the reader another, and even more venera- ble, set of frames for following his journey. Richard’s visionary passion also runs under the surface of Coetzee’s novel, helping to shape its affirmation of what he elsewhere calls “mystical intuition,”1 and weaving that vision- ary experience into the aesthetics and the ethics of Disgrace. Coetzee’s Latin, “the only language I studied at university,” stood him in good stead.2

First, a few general things about Richard’s accounts of the visionary as they affect Disgrace. His descriptions anticipate, and resemble, the accounts of many later visionaries; in addition to Richard, David himself cites Dante, Langland, Byron, Blake, Wordsworth, Yeats, and Rilke. They also resemble the intuited beginnings of fictions that many writers have recounted: the mysterious appearance of a gesture, a voice, a character in motion from “outside” consciousness. In addition, the visionary con- nects with the ethical choices that David makes at the end of his story; it leads to, but doesn’t compel, those decisions. To elaborate just a little, the visionary elements are not in themselves decisive or completing; nei- ther David nor the novel ends with a vision. They enrich David’s self- understanding but also highlight some unchanging, and unwelcome, qualities of his character. The novel insists on open-endedness, both because it sees character change as real but always partial, and because the novel itself illuminates, then rejects, any definitive authority. Finality — in vision, in character, in ethical action — is a fiction this fiction stands against.

In what follows I argue that the visionary, the aesthetic, and the ethical are interwoven in the book in ways vital to its meanings.

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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66 ! BILL MCDONALD

II, i

Richard (d. 1173), associate of Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas of Canterbury and successor of the more famous Hugh of St. Victor, holds a significant place in Catholic mystical thinking. He was known as the “Magnus Contemplator,” after his treatise “De Contemplatione,” which Dante mentions in the Paradiso as putting forward “all that a mere man can see, and more” (X, 131–32, Ciardi translation). His writings were actively sought out by other monasteries, praised by St. Bonaventure, and included not only contemplative subjects but pedagogic ones as well; like his master Hugh, he wrote specifically to instruct as well as to reveal (St. Victor’s teaching program was copied throughout Europe).3 The narrative of Jacob and his family in Genesis provided the scaffold upon which he built a remarkable account of contemplation, while his familiarity with St. Augustine’s writings shaped its terminology and modes of argument.

Richard is read today largely for three texts: Twelve Patriarchs or Benjamin Minor: Of the preparation of the soul for contemplation; The Mystical Ark or Benjamin Major: Of the grace of contemplation; and for his remarkable work on the Trinity.4 The first two titles are taken from Psalm 67 (68 in the KJV and RSV), where Jacob’s youngest son Benjamin, “the least of them” (ibi Beniamin parvulus continens eos), leads the solemn vic- tory procession of God’s faithful into the sanctuary. In the Benjamin Minor Richard aligns himself with the tradition of allegorizing not only Benjamin’s position as the youngest son, but Jacob’s entire family, assign- ing a stage or “discipline” in spiritual development to his wives Leah and Rachel, their handmaidens, and the birth order of his thirteen children. So, Dan (judgment) and Naphtali (conversion) defend the soul (Benjamin Minor, 17–22), Issachar expresses its joy and reward (37–39), Dina its shame (45–59), Joseph its discretion (67–72), and Benjamin the ecstasy of contemplation and interior visions of light (71–75, 82–87). Richard for- mulates the basic distinction between reason, “by which we distinguish things,” and affection, “by which we love,” in this way: “These are the two wives of the rational spirit, from which honorable offspring and heirs of the kingdom of heaven are born. Right counsels are born from reason; holy longings from affection” (3). Longing is identified with Leah, who strug- gles to move past the pleasure of worldly objects, while Rachel, the alle- gorical embodiment of reason, prepares the way for the trans-rational visions that only her son Benjamin can achieve. Richard works each of these figures in many ways; his allegories are subtle, not reductive or naïve as this quick summary might suggest. Each stage involves a material or historical event, and an accompanying symbolic event in the spirit. These offer a path not only to seminarians, but to any individuals seeking spiritual insight into their own experience; Richard wishes to show the way to a large audience. Self-consciously citing Christ’s example, Richard sees him-

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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LURIE, RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR & “VISION AS EROS” IN DISGRACE ! 67

self as a committed teacher as well as thinker (“Learn from me, because I am gentle and lowly in heart).5 His path repeats a familiar, even archetypal, journey in Western mysticism: from immediate sensuous experience through the complex stages of mental apprehension and meditation — what we would call psychology — to the many layers of contemplation. (These stages align with the many secular accounts given by verbal artists of their creative process.) Self-knowledge is a necessary achievement for the contemplative life, and Richard describes the many difficulties and limitations in the way of that achievement. Finally, it is a path that empha- sizes relationships with others and the importance of full community where love may be enacted. That love (charity) may be “violent” (De Quatuor gradibus violentiae amoris: On the Four Degrees of Violent Charity), but after its “wounding, binding and languishing” we arrive at the soul reborn (paragraphs 42–47) as it takes on the form of Christ’s humility and servanthood, becoming all things to all men . . .” (DeQuator, #42–47; Zinn, 9).

II, ii

Among the most telling of Richard’s analyses for Disgrace comes in chap- ters 45–49 of Benjamin Minor, where he develops a model of shame. Ironically, Richard writes more about Jacob’s oft-neglected only daughter Dina (Dinah) than any of her brothers except Joseph and Benjamin, mark- ing shame as a virtue of serious import in his schema.6 He has a number of things to say about shame and disgrace that resonate with Coetzee’s novel.7 Shame, first, requires the right timing to be powerful, underlining the violence of the process. It requires “hatred” of whatever act led to the person’s shame. It has two stages: the lower one of public exposure; and the higher, spiritually more potent one of internal shame of one’s act.

These are stages that David clearly moves through. His disgrace comes just at the moment that his belief in any meaningful future collapses (for example, 7, 11, 58). His public disgrace comes well before his interior acceptance of it. While David never “hates” the desire that led to his dis- grace, after Lucy’s rape he does fully acknowledge the offense he commit- ted against the Isaacs family (163–74, especially 173). Part of the higher shame is an awareness of one’s own moral depletion, something that David gradually comes to acknowledge.

One of “virtuous shame’s” characteristics is the ability to not feel shame if “you should be compelled to pass before a multitude with a nude body” (47). Richard contrasts this to being “defiled in the mind by an impure thought,” a spiritual nudity that, in the right-spirited should pro- duce more shame than public nakedness. Such shame is rare in Richard’s accounting, and far up the ladder of inner virtue his students are mount-

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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68 ! BILL MCDONALD

ing. Dinah “is that judgment by which everyone is by his own conscience addressed, convicted, condemned and punished with a punishment worthy of the disorder” (48). Shame requires self-consciousness, and is “marve- lous” and universal; in spiritual shame the judge and judged, the punisher and punished, become one. Disgrace, then, is a particular kind of virtue, not simply an abasement; it contains within itself, literally and figuratively, a potential of grace.

An important initial step toward this virtuous shame lies in David’s superficially surprising reaction to his colleagues’ ridicule, the dunce-cap newspaper photograph, and so on. He never seems to suffer the crushing humiliations of public unmasking that many men in his position might feel. He can tell his story with relative ease to his colleagues, and to Rosalind, Bev, even to Lucy. This is because his disgrace grows out of two things: his self-satisfying desire, which in the novel’s early pages he prizes above all else; and its near opposite: the despair he feels at having no future — pedagogic, familial, scholarly, artistic, and especially erotic — that unmasking might damage. There is no “public” whose opinion his life’s meaning depends upon. And this in turn makes David more open to dis- grace’s virtue: an internal, spiritual condition in which he resides, and of which he will never entirely be free.

II, iii

Ethics is the arena in which the claims of otherness — the moral law, the human other, cultural norms, the good-in-itself, etc. — are artic- ulated and negotiated.

— Geoffrey Harpham, Shadows of Ethics

Dinah, of course, is a rape victim in Genesis, assaulted by Sichem, son of Emor. Richard allegorizes these two Shechemites as “Love of Vain Glory” and “Love of One’s Own Excellence,” since they willingly cir- cumcise themselves for Dinah (not God), glorying in their shame. Richard’s idealized, “feminine” descriptions of “beautiful” Dinah, how- ever, seem almost an inversion, a predictably pre-feminist inversion, of Lucy. And any allegorical connection between the two Shechemites and Lucy’s three assailants seems remote or perverse, though her attackers could be construed as fathers and son, and could well be said to “glory in their shame” of humiliating a woman whose ancestors had humiliated them. But Lucy’s experience of disgrace, her withdrawal into a private world, does form an illuminating connection with Richard’s portrait of Dinah as “that judgment” (48). This is not the more public judgment allegorized in her brother Dan, but a particular form of interior self- evaluation. Just so, Lucy’s shame is of a particular, subtle kind: not the

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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LURIE, RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR & “VISION AS EROS” IN DISGRACE ! 69

public shame of rape itself, as she might have had to endure in a fully patriarchal world, but a disgrace connected with the post-apartheid inter- regnum in which she lives, and which only she can feel.8 Lucy’s silent self-judgment castigates her own idealizations of a new, harmonious rural South Africa, where hard work and neighborly cooperation could leave both her commune days and apartheid’s violence behind. Her naïveté is encapsulated in the novel’s most suspenseful moment, when she chooses to lock up her two Dobermans while her assaulters look on. In her zeal not to be racist, to help bring about the new era through her trusting actions, Lucy exposes herself to the “personal hatred” of her rapists; she is not just an abstract “white person” or even “white woman” to them, she feels later, but an object of immediate, intimate hatred. Harassed by her father, who wants to control her life story as he had when she was a child (for example, 89, 105, 198), Lucy slowly, and quietly, develops her own well-tempered narrative, judging that she must endure the personal, inward shame of rape and untutored optimism in order to gain peace, continuation, and the Petrus-guaranteed safe boundaries of her house (208).

II, iv

In The Mystical Ark Richard isolates six modes of contemplation (I: 6) and develops a tropological (ethical, and also visionary) taxonomy of those modes. The lower stages outline the interrelationships of imagination and reason, the final two moving “above,” then “beyond” reason to ecstasy. All are seen, finally, as manifestations of the divine, with the high spiritual world of the Trinity at the apex of the six stages. Further, any object what- soever can become a proper object for contemplation.

At first this rapturous Christianity might seem to exclude David Lurie, who, a few undeveloped references to pre-existing souls and God aside, seems little drawn to the divine. Lurie’s understanding of vision, further, is certainly mediated through “my master” Wordsworth and the Romantics, to whom he has devoted the largest part of his scholarship and teaching. Nonetheless, Richard’s way of seeing, and his accounts of contemplative states, make their way into David’s experience, and into the novel’s tex- ture. They flow along with, even anchor, the more familiar visionary com- pany of the poets. They also present the life of contemplation as objective and universal, not simply personal and idiosyncratic: a making substantial that Coetzee hopes for in his fiction as well.9 Finally, Richard’s account of the visionary includes, but is not limited to, momentary epiphanies, the legendary “flash of insight”; the contemplative life also takes place in time and over time.10 It is narrative as well as lyric, both of which will figure in David’s history.

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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70 ! BILL MCDONALD

In his excellent introductory monograph to his edition of Richard’s writings, translator Grover A. Zinn gives a concise summary of Richard’s great subject: “By contemplation Richard means an attitude of mind, a state of beholding.” He defines contemplation as “. . . the free, more pen- etrating gaze of a mind, suspended with wonder concerning manifestations of wisdom” (The Mystical Ark, I: 4). Zinn continues:

Contemplation . . . is an attentive or eager looking at. Above all it must be clearly understood that contemplation is not some sort of mental proc- ess. Richard . . . is careful to distinguish thinking (a rather rambling consideration of many things without purpose) . . . from the act of con- templating. The contemplative act itself is an intent beholding focused upon a single object or cluster of objects presented to the mind by imagination, reason or the pure understanding that alone has access to divine things. . . . The purpose of contemplation is not thinking about something . . . but “adhering with wonder to the object that brings it joy” (I: 4). It is nondiscussive and unified. It enjoys rather than uses. It rests rather than acts. (23–24)

Once his conception of contemplation is clear, Richard goes on to posit biblical personifications, urging the novice contemplative to substitute himself for, imagine himself as, a great biblical figure. Each of these figures — and he includes a great variety, from Abraham to the Queen of Sheba — exemplifies a distinctive stage of contemplative realization. Richard also insists that at least some of the objects of contemplation, though not the highest, can be “brought down for the understanding of all” (IV, 12). In so claiming he continues his pedagogic emphasis from Benjamin Minor, establishing an ethical practice.

Beyond all this, however, lies the fundamental feature of Richard’s inquiry into contemplation: the reservoir of erotic metaphors and allego- ries that charge and enliven his work. Beyond Jacob and his family, “The Song of Songs” suffuses much of Richard’s writing, and the traditional figures of bride and bridegroom for the soul and God take on special savor in his formulations. Naturally this is a sublimated eros, an eros marking love, and also desire and longing, in their widest applications, but Richard doesn’t shy away from the explicitly sexual in the rapture of his vision.11 Here is a representative example, one that might almost serve as an outline of the later stages of David’s difficult spiritual journey:

And so when the soul enters with her Beloved into the bedchamber, she alone delaying and enjoying the sweetness with Him alone . . . she forgets all external things and delights in supreme and intimate love of Him. She sees herself, alone with the Beloved, when, after having forgotten all exterior things, she aims her longing away from consideration of herself and toward love of her Beloved. And on account of these things that she considers in her inmost places, she kindles her soul with such affection

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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and rises up with thanksgiving from the consideration of both her goods and her evils. . . . Think what is in your life that you have loved more ardently, craved more anxiously; what affected you more pleasantly and delighted you more deeply than all other things. Consider, therefore, if you feel the same force of affection and abundance of delight when you burn with longing for the supreme Lover and when you rest in His love. Who doubts that He does not yet occupy that innermost recess of your affections if the dart of intimate love pierces your soul less and excites it less fervently in divine affections than it was accustomed to penetrate and excite it sometimes with respect to alien affections? (Benjamin Major, IV, 16)

Also important for Disgrace is Richard’s late treatise on the Trinity, whose third book develops an ingenious argument for a Three-in-One God based on the principle of active love, or charity:

When one person gives love to another and he alone loves only the other, there certainly is love [dilectio] but it is not a shared love [condilectio]. When two love each other mutually and give to each other the affection of supreme longing; when the affection of the first goes out to the second and the affection of the second goes out to the first and tends as it were in diverse ways — in this case there certainly is love on both sides, but it is not shared love. Shared love is properly said to exist when a third per- son is loved by two persons harmoniously and in community, and the affection of the two persons is fused into one affection by the flame of love for the third. From these things it is evident that shared love would have no place in Divinity itself if a third person were lacking to the other two persons.12

In order for God to be fully charitable, fully loving, he must be tripartite. Richard extends this interpretation to the human community, which also requires a third person to be complete. This recondite “vision as eros” with its “flame of love” and preference for threesomes will inform several of the novel’s many triangular relationships, particularly the final one at the book’s close.

Necessarily, Richard’s overt allegories and unself-conscious erotic celebrations do not appear directly in Coetzee’s rigorously self-moni- toring novel. Instead Coetzee gives us fiction in which the allegorical is fluid rather than fixed, and which constantly scrutinizes its own foun- dations. Fredric Jameson’s succinct account of the first of these permu- tations of allegory, often endorsed by Coetzee’s critics, can help us along:

The newer allegory is horizontal rather than vertical: if it must still attach its one-on-one conceptual labels to its objects after the fashion of The Pilgrim’s Progress, it does so in the conviction that those objects (along with their labels) are now profoundly relational, indeed are themselves

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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72 ! BILL MCDONALD

construed by their relations to each other. When we add to this the inevitable mobility of such relations, we begin to glimpse the process of allegorical interpretation as a kind of scanning that, moving back and forth across the text, readjusts its terms in constant modification of a type quite different from our stereotypes of some static medieval or biblical decoding.13

This account brilliantly summarizes an important part of Coetzee’s prac- tice in Disgrace. Think, for example, of the book’s multifarious triangles, or of how our view of Bev Shaw shifts registers from just another “dumpy woman” in David’s catalog to a rescuing angel. It is also con- sonant with the novel’s refusal of finality in its characters’ lives or in its own ethical position. Working in this mode, Coetzee turns the gap between Richard’s spiritual universe and our own to his artistic advan- tage; any resonant eros-vision now surprises both character and reader, appearing dramatically in a world from which such things have long since been discounted by tough-minded realists such as Lucy, David, and, presumably, the reader. The surprise creates an authority, giving us a sense of a voice from elsewhere — not necessarily the “higher” else- where of traditional allegory — and that authority in turn sustains alle- gorical meaning. In this way Richard’s visionary insights make their way into Coetzee’s novel, further developing the similarities between reli- gious and artistic visions. He draws on the “horizontal” allegory favored by postmodernism but in a way that maintains a shadow version of Richard’s confident practice. Coetzee’s allegory is arguably more impor- tant for his political and ethical purposes than for his exploration of the visionary, but it plays a vital part here as well. It also gives us a way to see the history of the visionary.

Within these frames I shall show that David’s major visions are charged with the erotic energy Richard celebrated, and that the allegorical and intertextual triumphalism of his treatises leaves its mark on David’s artistic and ethical life even as it once occupied his scholarly life. For example, he comes to re-see his imagined Teresa Guiccioli as an allegorical figure whom he tries to emulate; no longer the young girl he forcibly shaped in early drafts, she metamorphoses into a “dumpy little widow” who paradoxically becomes his teacher about love and longing (181–85, 213–14). Second, Richard’s writings also touch Disgrace itself, not only its main character. As we have seen, Richard’s elaborate “personification allegory” of Jacob’s daughter Dinah — her shame via rape — underwrites Lucy’s tragedy, and Richard’s claims about the psychology of shame and disgrace color the novel’s exploration of those subjects. Most important, however, are two related topics that lie at the heart of David Lurie and the fiction that gives him voice: love and the visionary. “Vision as eros”: what David has sought his entire life, from his “womanizing” days and practiced urban gaze to the transforming visions near the end of his narrative, and where for David and

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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Disgrace itself the aesthetic, spiritual, and ethical come together — at least for a time.

III

Stories, whether written as novels or scripted as plays, connect the visible with the invisible, the present with the past. They propose life as something with moral consequence. They distribute the suffering so that it can be borne . . .

— E. L. Doctorow. From the introduction to Creationists: Selected Essays, 1993–2006

Throughout his writing career J. M. Coetzee has explored the visionary. His leading characters all experience powerful visions, from Jacobus Coetzee of Dusklands and Magda of In the Heart of the Country (“What I lack in experience I plainly make up for in vision . . .” [42]) through the Magistrate of Waiting for the Barbarians, with his recurring dream-visions of children and his fantasy of flying, all the way to Elizabeth Costello. The heroine of Age of Iron, Elizabeth Curren, has at least twenty such experi- ences over the course of her story. Many of these are brief and, to repeat, closely resemble other artists’ accounts of the intuitions that launched their work. Others are more extended and intertextual, creating an overt or, more often, an unspoken dialogue with an earlier text. In Youth (2002) Coetzee narrativizes his own visionary experience as a young man in London, lying alone on Hampstead Heath:

Tired out, one Sunday afternoon, he folds his jacket into a pillow, stretches out on the greensward, and sinks into a sleep or half-sleep in which consciousness does not vanish but continues to hover. It is a state he has not known before: in his very blood he seems to feel the steady wheeling of the earth. The faraway cries of children, the birdsong, the whirr of insects gather force and come together in a paean of joy. His heart swells. At last! he thinks. At last it has come, the moment of ecstatic unity with the All! Fearful that the moment will slip away, he tries to put a halt to the clatter of thought, tries simply to be a conduit for the great universal force that has no name.

It lasts no more than seconds in clock time, this signal event. But when he gets up and dusts off his jacket, he is refreshed, renewed. . . . If he has not utterly been transfigured, then at least he has been blessed with a hint that he belongs on this earth. (117: see also 154)

In the face of Disgrace’s pared-down style and strong skepticism about the metaphysical, such visionary experiences — both those that break into David’s consciousness and those that he, following Richard, consciously sustains — yield our only access to a spiritual life beyond, or alongside, the

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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74 ! BILL MCDONALD

quotidian. David claims to agree with his daughter that “there is no higher life. This is the only life there is. Which we share with animals” (74). In its conclusion the novel will take that “sharing with animals” and put it together with another way of seeing, certainly “different” if not higher (74), to bring David Lurie to a new beginning point for a future he could not envision earlier.

David’s visionary life isn’t as prolific as Elizabeth Curren’s, but he has a number of such experiences during the course of Disgrace. Some are transitory, others — such as the vision of Lucy “struggling with the two in the blue overalls, struggling against them. He writhes, trying to blank it out” (97) — produce dark and painful knowledge.14 But three in particu- lar, in the last quarter of the novel, prove especially illuminating for the final turns in his character and the novel’s outcome.

Ironically, however, David’s understanding of “vision as eros” in the early stages of his story leaves us a long way from Richard’s intricate reli- gious hierarchies. Rather we’re back with David’s “womanizing”; Richard may passionately allegorize women and marriage, but David, evoking his unchangeable “temperament,” largely denigrates and controls them.15 His language and his “vision” seem, in the beginning, almost a repudiation of Richard’s beloved Song of Songs: self-protection is his goal, not openness, or even alertness, toward the other. He is cool, bordering on cold. “He has always been a man of the city, at home amid a flux of bodies where eros stalks and glances flash like arrows” (6), and Cape Town, “prodigal of beauty, of beauties” (12), has always given him what he wanted. We have his quick, Pavlovian ranking of women’s body parts, his “contented” account of carefully managed lovemaking with Soraya, his self-serving ide- alization of Melanie Isaac’s young body, itself the latest of his many crushes on “one or another of his charges” (12). His perception of Melanie — indeed, of all his students — is habitual, canned: an “eye” that seems beyond “education.” He claims that the “humility” he derives from his diminished academic position makes him a deeper learner than his charges, but his actions don’t bear that out.

In addition, we have his anti-erotic account of his brief fling with his departmental secretary, Dawn (“Bucking and clawing, she works herself into a froth of excitement that in the end only repels him” [9]). This last encounter leads him to think of Origen and self-castration, and a particu- larly chilling vision spins into his mind:

. . . a simple enough operation, surely; they do it to animals every day. . . Severing, tying off: with local anesthetic and a steady hand and a modicum of phlegm one might even do it oneself, out of a textbook. A man on a chair snipping away at himself: an ugly sight, but no more ugly, from a certain point of view, than the same man exercising himself on the body of a woman. (9)

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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LURIE, RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR & “VISION AS EROS” IN DISGRACE ! 75

This and several other sterile visions like it dominate the early sections of David’s narrative. Directly beneath his account of the city’s erotic glances lies his disgust with sexuality, women’s and his own alike, and his acute sense that his life has become a “desert” (11) and himself a “ghost” (7), a self-parody of his earlier Byronic days. All expressions of desire and the erotic, not just the specifically sexual, are suddenly tainted for David, falling directly into decay and death; his “anxious flurries of promiscuity” (7) cannot cover his feelings of being newly undesirable and unlovable, and his exploitive seduction of the child-like Melanie represents a futile, narcissistic attempt to recover a power and beauty that has long since left him behind. Self-parody indeed.

Though dominated by these cold, measured narratives, other more hopeful features of David’s psyche still break through on occasion. His frequent self-criticism, stinging and accurate, is part of this — though his inability, or refusal, to act on what he knows about himself shows its ethi- cal impotence. But there are further signs that give us a more complex David early on, and lay the groundwork for his visionary experiences late in the novel. He does, first, find Melanie authentically beautiful, and is repeatedly astonished (19, 20, 25, 27) by the power of the feelings and desire she generates in him. He can also, however briefly, rightly perceive her suffering (for example, 27). Next comes a triangle of saints: Origen and Benedict (9, and also 66), and St. Hubert (84), who famously gave refuge to a deer. David, as his early book confirms, does know his way around religious history.16 He does not mention Richard by name, but his celebration of erotic vision, twisted now but still resonant, will return strongly near the end as well. David can also see himself figured in the world as another, for example in the janitor who watches Melanie’s play rehearsal with him in the darkness of an empty theatre (24). But this moment of insight — “the old men whose company he seems on the point of joining” — transposes instead into a familiar vision of aversion: “tramps and drifters with their stained raincoats and cracked false teeth and hairy earholes” and then of narrow self-justification: “Can they be blamed for clinging to the last to their place at the sweet banquet of the senses?” (24). This passage in turn points toward David’s most serious and full account of eros in the book’s first half: his parable of the male dog beaten for expressing his instinct for nearby females in heat (90). David’s vision here is of his willing service to Aphrodite and Blake (“Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unsatisfied desire” [69]). A small sleight of hand allows him to substitute Blake’s “desire” for the dog’s “instinct”: Desire is self-justifying, beyond ethical judgment or control. His conviction about his fixed “temperament” sustains him through the show trial that his ethi- cally beleaguered institution imposes on him.17

As David defiantly endures his “inquiry” before his academic peers, refusing “a priest” and “repentance” (49, 58), and then sets out for the

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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76 ! BILL MCDONALD

near-monastic isolation of his daughter’s farm, he reenacts not so much the stages of Richard’s taxonomy as the contemplative, ascetic spirit of his undertaking. But it is above all in his visions, unbidden and willed, that David achieves a measure of self-knowledge and aesthetic breakthrough that culminate in loving ethical action: “vision as eros.” We see this process work itself out in the three central visions of his life: the re-envisioning of his opera; the fleeting images of all the women he has ever known; and in the Wordsworthian, Victorine sustained “spot of time” which finally shapes a new life for himself and his daughter. All point toward meaningful futures that David had despaired of achieving, and to an ethic that resitu- ates desire in full recognition of the other.

IV, i

Forgiveness but also unflinchingness: that is the mixture I have in mind, if it is attainable. First the unflinchingness, then the forgive- ness.

— J. M. Coetzee, “Interview” (“Beckett”), Doubling the Point, 29

In Rousseau’s mind one had only to be very honest with oneself, and brave . . . and one could tell the truth about oneself . . . [Dostoevsky] says that it simply is not good enough to look in your heart and write, that what comes out when you write is quite as likely to be some self-serving lie as it is to be the ruthless truth about yourself. I must say that, in this confrontation, my sympathy is wholly with Dostoevsky. The basis of his position is simply that the heart of our own desire is unknown to us and, perhaps even further, that it’s in the nature of human desire not to know itself fully, to have some kernel of the unknowable in it. That, perhaps, is what ani- mates desire, namely that it is unknowable to itself.

— J. M. Coetzee, “A Conversation with Eleanor Wachtel,” Brick 67 (2001), 45

Strange how, as desire relaxes its grip on her body, she sees more and more clearly a universe ruled by desire. . . . Not the least thing, not the last thing but is called to by love. A vision, an opening up, as the heavens are opened up by a rainbow when the rain stops falling. Does it suffice, for old folk, to have these visions now and again, these rainbows, as a comfort, before the rain starts pelting down again? Must one be too creaky to join the dance before one can see the pattern?

— J. M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello, Lesson 7

Disgrace’s narrator makes it quite clear that David Lurie’s opera, originally titled Byron in Italy (6), corresponds in revealing ways to his character;

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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LURIE, RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR & “VISION AS EROS” IN DISGRACE ! 77

indeed, David himself is more than half aware that its changing form mirrors his changing spirit. Begun as an account of the older Byron’s last great affair, with the young Countess Teresa Guiccioli, David planned to contrast her full, youthful passion with the poet’s ennui. She would plead to be carried away “to another life”; he too would long for another life, but one of retirement, even the peace of death. This conception re-presents the split David experi- ences between his own youthful ardor, now largely elegiac, and his increasing despair over his loss of passion, desirability, and even the semblance of love. Like one of Richard’s contemplative novices, he imaginatively identified with Byron and made Teresa over into his own image. He did learn from this first version — “At the age of thirty-five he [Byron] has begun to learn that life is precious” (162) — but he can’t get words and music together.

But by the time he takes up the opera again, during his final visit to Cape Town, those thematic lines — youth and age, passion and ennui — no longer arrest him. After long contemplation he recasts his heroine as an asthmatic, middle-aged “dumpy little widow” (181) resembling Bev Shaw more than Melanie. He wonders if he can have the requisite empathy with this “peasant” Teresa to sustain the work. He now finds her alone in the Villa Gamba, hoarding Byron’s letters as her last hope for “immortality.” In an echo of The Aspern Papers (and Dominick Argento’s 1988 opera based on Henry James’s short novel) David concentrates on his heroine’s feelings.18 Byron is now long dead, but not silenced; “from the caverns of the underworld” he sings pale, desiccated lyrics: ‘‘It has dried up, the source of everything.’’ His voice is so weak that Teresa must, Echo-like, repeat his words, doing her best to call him back to life and passion, even as David gives her voice in turn. But this is not a patriarchal conquest of her voice, for this time David is not fully in control of his material, or even sure how it will turn out. Instead she surprises him, and the act of composition enters into the visionary. Formerly he had planned to “lift” melodies from Gluck or another master, blurring the line between the intertextual and plagiarism; now that sort of consciously controlled, well-managed art- making simply doesn’t work. Rather he is “in the grip” of his revised character, eating little, following as she leads him (186), writing down new music. Sound-images for the work rise from beyond David’s own limited musical palette (183). “Sometimes the contour of a phrase occurs to him before he has a hint of what the words themselves will be; sometimes the words call forth the cadence; sometimes the shade of a melody, having hovered for days on the edge of hearing, unfolds and blessedly reveals itself” (183). This “blessed revelation” arises from David’s attentive, extended contemplation of his Teresa, and his channeling of her words and music.19 Like his Teresa, David may “howl to the moon,” but also like her, he begins to move beyond the narcissism and the paralyzing negativity that prevented him receiving anything “from the heart.” She becomes his guide to a new purpose, and a new self-understanding.

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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And what does she reveal? That the elegiac and the youthful erotic are no longer central to her life, and that she is willing to risk all the disgrace and ridicule of becoming a comic figure: the seeker of “immortal longing” in a frumpy, long-forgotten body. The instrument to elicit that comedy is the old African township banjo that David turns to for her songs, a relic from Lucy’s childhood. David will soon take the same risk, life following art, playing the banjo to the delight only of a crippled dog and the “whooping” amusement of three neighbor boys (212).20 The banjo relo- cates David’s relationship to Teresa and Byron; he plunks away, separate now from both and speaking for neither. Instead he discovers that he is “held in the music itself,” every attempt to soar away reined back by the “ludicrous instrument . . . like a fish on a line” (184–85). No identifica- tion, no satire, but the wordless music itself “inventing him” (186), an ecstatic, out-of-body experience — but one leashed to irony, comedy, the modern. To learn aesthetic, visionary transport from the cracked kettle of the banjo: Victorine allegory has obviously been inverted, but its goal preserved. Some readers insist on the opera’s failure because David knows he won’t complete it (214), but it has been a contemplative and moral triumph, breaking David free of his granite temperament and self-regard. Unlike his Teresa, he is not trapped in a watchful house. But even so, by refusing to be dead, by singing her immortal longings (209), she carries him past the “honour” that has blocked his change, and brought him “back to this world” (212), a world in which he can act, in which, thanks to his disgrace, he can do the right thing.

Richard’s Trinitarian vision as eros also lies beneath the almost inex- haustible series of triangles that have organized David’s experience. Many of these are what his ex-wife Rosalind resolutely calls “disgraceful and vul- gar too” (45): to be in bed with Melanie and Soraya at once, or with Melanie and her sister, or imagining Lucy and her recently departed lover Helen from a vantage point in their bedroom. It’s true that, decades after Freud, readers may no longer be shocked by half-conscious feelings of desire between parents and children, or by male fantasies of multiple part- ners. But the triangles don’t stop there. The opera began with triangula- tion between Teresa, Byron, and Count Guiccioli. Lucy has her hate-filled triangle of rapists. There’s Bill and Bev Shaw with David. Lucy, Petrus, and David, and David, Lucy, and Pollux form other, increasingly problematic threesomes. It’s hard to find scenes in the book that don’t depend on this particular geometry.

Still, we are surprised, I think, by the late turns that David’s triangula- tions take: Teresa, Byron, and David meeting in music; and the transfor- mation that ends the novel: Bev, David, and “Driepoot,” the three-legged “tripod” dog, a tableau with David standing between his two best teachers in love and ethical action. In Richard’s terms, love can only fulfill itself if there are three persons, separate yet unified. Just as Richard’s unusual

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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LURIE, RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR & “VISION AS EROS” IN DISGRACE ! 79

theology made the Holy Spirit a full, acting Person in the Trinity,21 so Coetzee makes Driepoot into a co-equal lover and beloved.

To be sure, this is no victorious, monologic allegory; human societies that permit so many “excess dogs” that euthanizing becomes an ethical act lie far from any City of God. Driepoot’s death, even as it calls up a strong ethical vision, also calls to mind the vicious deaths of Lucy’s dogs at human hands.22 Only the old, unwanted, and angry bulldog Katy, David’s female counterpart, survives. Yet David’s ethical action grows out of the over- whelming feelings produced in him by the “theatre” of the dogs’ impo- tence and suffering, and he sees himself as a harijan, the lowest of the low, doing ritualized work (146) whose deep ethical significance only Bev Shaw sees. So harijan, “disgraced” and untouchable dogs, in this “horizontal” allegory may become spiritual guides to authentic love, and frumpy animal activists may prove wiser than all, teaching self-sacrifice (“One gets used to things getting harder . . .” [219]) and responsibility. This is the erotic vision to which his disgrace has brought him: not to wallow in what he has lost, or in his own righteousness before his judges, or in his guilt before Melanie and her family, or even his self-regarding ideas of happiness, but to strip his old self away until only his “immortal longing” and a single act of selfless love shine through, transcending for a time what he had been. Giving up Driepoot, “bending to the tempest” (209), refusing the tempta- tions of possession and control, and accepting his new future as a grandfa- ther in rural South Africa are all related. The dog’s love lives on in him as, perhaps, his love will live on in Lucy’s child and in the country: desire without possession, desire that refuses possession, vision — and ethics — as eros. Teresa, tied to the Villa Gamba, has no way to take this final step. So David asks her “forgiveness” (214) because he cannot save her in the same way that she saved him. Immediately the novel takes us to the dogs’ holding pens and the “generous . . . unconditional” love of an animal. Richard’s claims that transcendence follows alienation of the spirit, and that “a virtue is nothing other than an ordered and moderated affection” (13) have been resituated, and affirmed (Benjamin Major, V, 2, and III, 23).23

IV, ii

Morals have bedded with story-telling since the magic of the imagi- native capacity developed in the human brain.

— Nadine Gordimer

We live in our own souls as in an unmapped region, a few acres of which we have cleared for our habitation; while of the nature of those nearest us we know but the boundaries that march with ours.

— Edith Wharton, The Touchstone

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The composition of the opera gives us the first of David’s three decisive visions that round out Disgrace. The second — actually a small set of con- nected visions — comes shortly after he returns to the Dock Theatre to see Melanie Isaacs’s ongoing performance in Sunset at the Globe Salon (190–94). Unlike all his other affairs, he still senses “something unfin- ished” about his relationship with Melanie, a “stored smell,” while at the same time labeling any attempt to revive their affair as “crazy.” This cor- responds to the earliest stages of contemplation in Richard’s hierarchy — the sensuous, imaginative perception of an object in the world: a beginning, but only that. He still sees Melanie selfishly as his last chance for youthful passion, for that “flash of feeling,” but reluctantly affirms (in a witty alteration of mythic male leads) “The marriage of Cronos and Harmony: unnatural” (190).24 This predictably launches another of his slightly bitter, self-regarding laments on old age, complete with phrases from Yeats and an audible sigh. But he knows that Melanie is back on stage, and he goes.

In an unusually straightforward piece of allegory, the Dock itself had been until recently a cold-storage holding bin for cattle carcasses headed for export, now revised into a “fashionable entertainment spot.” Just so, Sunset has been revived in a newer, spiffier production, but remains a post- apartheid, “nakedly political,” slapstick comedy with a multicultural cast. David still dislikes the play, whose too-easy achievement of cultural cathar- sis (23) Coetzee places his book against. But Melanie has found her voice in her reprised role as the novice hairdresser, and plays the part with an assurance and “deft timing” that she lacked before, either in performance or life. David speculates that perhaps Melanie has come through a trial of her own and been made stronger. Like his imagined Teresa, she has found a new self in an absurd part, asserted her independent voice in spite of the bad jokes and “vulgar” puns. Instead of a banjo or mandolin she wields a broom.

David, again in thrall to her youth and beauty, wishes for a “sign,” and composes one: her clothes burning off in a “cold private flame” (echoing the flame he endured during Lucy’s rape) and her standing “in a revelation secret to him alone,” naked and perfect before him as she had in his daughter’s room. It’s a summary of his controlling desire to date, and a medieval vision out of Richard, charged with eros and idealization, repeat- ing the enmeshing triangle of desire and incest, young lover and young daughter, both unavoidable and crippling. But David’s eye has been edu- cated by his reflections, and he moves past this appropriating vision of Melanie to see her not as an idealized young body but more as a blossom- ing actress (191) and independent daughter whose excellent performance he wishes to take pride in.25 The transformation immediately yields two involuntary visions. A memory — perhaps the true sign he hoped for (191) — rises “without warning” of a young German tourist he had picked up

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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years ago. He remembers her legs and soft hair, not in conquering, Byronic tones but with a warmth that leads to a second, deeper vision:

In a sudden and soundless eruption, as if he had fallen into a waking dream, a stream of images pours down, images of women he has known on two continents, some from so far away in time that he barely recog- nizes them. Like leaves blown on the wind, pell-mell, they pass before him. A fair field full of folk: hundred of lives all tangled in his. He holds his breath, willing the vision to continue.” (192)

Set against the opening catalog of “David’s women” (“wives and mis- tresses” [7]), this set of streaming images from his deep time and space flows by quickly, yet each person is recognized. And the cumulative effect of all those faces is not more burnt-out exhaustion, more self-pitying retreat, but instead curiosity about their histories: an empathetic rather than narcissistic upwelling. Can the German girl be imagining him even as he imagines her? This experience does not offer unambiguous closure, but points the way to an erotic vision that draws on David’s disgrace, comes out of that disgrace, and offers a sign. It turns on a word: enriched. David had “stupidly” used it to describe his relationship to Melanie to reporters during his trial (56), but now he’s ready to “stand by it” as the right word for all his relationships with women: “. . . by each of them he was enriched, and by the others too, even the least of them, even the failures. Like a flower blooming in his breast, his heart floods with thankfulness” (192). The enrichment came from each woman to him, and he has carried it with him without knowing how to see it, until this moment. This comes close, I think, to Richard’s claims for contemplation: its “enlargement (mentis dilatation) and lifting up (mentis sublevatio) of the spirit’s vision,” leading to its “adhering with wonder to the object that brings it joy.”26 The vision ends with questions: where do these “hypnagogic” moments come from; “what god is doing the leading?” Eros indeed: like Melanie in her play, David’s “second act” of re-envisioning his chilling summary of the women in his life has been empowered by love.

David’s overt literary associations with this vision are medieval, but with Piers Plowman, not Richard of St. Victor. Langland’s dream-vision of “a fair field of folk” is slightly recast; the lives of these women folk are not occasions for satire, as are the men that pass before Piers in the poem, but, in a striking metaphoric sequence, their faces “pour down” on him, then ride the wind past him, before “tangling” (quite unlike scattered leaves) their lives (not just their images) with his.27 In Richard’s terms, David here sees more deeply into the “innermost part of things” because the “fog of error” and “cloud of sin” have been lifted from experience (Major IV, 4). That’s not David’s language, of course, but the description fits well; he does not stand apart to judge the fair field, but to embrace it. At the same time the “wives and mistresses” of David’s early, callous catalog have

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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become not some perfect, idealized, grace-filled vision of women — even in moments of visionary insight David will never entirely escape modernity or conventional maleness or South Africa — but the dream-memory of each woman has let him reclaim a word of great value: “enriched.”

Then the vision is over, and Coetzee, like Joyce but in much more aggressive fashion, shows the limited impact of this epiphany on David’s action. As a culmination of what he calls, without irony, his “night of rev- elations” (194) David eyes a leather-clad prostitute, a drugged girl even younger than Melanie, and has her service him on a dark cul-de-sac in his car. “Why not?” he asks himself, and experiences a post-orgasm “content- edness” just as he did with Melanie (19) and Soraya (5). This lacks the “anxious flurry” of his earlier promiscuity, and adds the “strangely protec- tive” feeling he has toward the girl, but the whole encounter carries us back to his narcissism: Habitual old sex in the city. “So this is all it takes! he thinks. How could I ever have forgotten it? (194): Honest, true to character, but not a return to earlier “values” that anyone can admire, and hardly “enriching.” The move from young love to protected daughter dissolves in David’s familiar, destructive lusts. Sexual desire works in the present and imagines an immediate future; David knows this, and repeats a judgment he’s expressed to the Isaacs, and to Rosalind: “Not a bad man but not good either” (195). He takes the benumbed girl back to her street corner, which may be more than he did for Melanie, but not much more. Plainly, even violently, Coetzee refuses any idealization of David’s vision; by itself it is not enough. But it may clear the ground for a more important new beginning with his flesh-and-blood daughter, Lucy.

IV, iii

Richard of St. Victor on the aftermath of an ecstatic vision: “For truly, we are led outside ourselves in two ways: At one time we are outside ourselves, but we descend below ourselves; at another time we are outside ourselves, but we are raised above ourselves. . . . But just as there is a two-fold going out, so there is also a two-fold return. From both goings out we return as it were to the dwelling place of our usual life, when after worldly labors or, preferably, after a manifestation of celestial contemplations, we bring the eyes of our mind back to the consideration of our morals, and through investi- gation of our innermost being we examine by studious reconsidera- tion what sort of person we are ourselves. . . When Peter returned to himself he said: “Now I know truly that the Lord sent his angel.” [Acts 12:11]

— Benjamin Major, V: 8

Against the endlessness of skepticism Dostoevsky poses the closure not of confession but of absolution and therefore of the intervention

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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of grace in the world. In that sense Dostoevsky is not a psychological novelist at all: he is finally not interested in the psyche, which he sees as an arena of game-playing, of the middle of a novel. To the extent that I am taken as a political novelist, it may be because I take it as given that people must be treated as fully responsible beings. Psychology is no excuse. Politics, in its wise stupidity, is at one with religion here: one man, one soul, no half measures. What saves me from a mere stupid stupidity, I would hope, is a measure of charity, which is, I suppose, the way grace allegorizes itself in the world. Another way of saying this is that I try not to lose sight of the reality that we are children, unreconstructed (Freud wouldn’t disagree at this point), to be treated with the charity that children have due to them (charity doesn’t preclude clear-sightedness).

— J. M. Coetzee, “Interview” (“Autobiography and Confession”), Doubling the Point, 249

David’s final vision emerges out of his fifteenth and final exchange with Lucy, during which he begins to accept her choice to keep her baby. Lucy deliberately wills her future; she will, following nature, come to love her child, and shall choose to be “a good mother and a good person.” David responds yet again with “it’s too late for me” sourness, but a seed has been planted: “A good person. Not a bad resolution to make, in dark times” (216). Love and the ethical now interweave for Lucy, and David will strug- gle to achieve the same.

Returning uninvited to the farm a few days later, David leaves his truck at the last hillcrest and walks the remaining distance. The scene echoes his first view of his daughter months earlier, when he first arrived in the Eastern Cape (“From the shade of the stoep Lucy emerges into the sun- light. For a moment he does not recognize her” [59]). This time he gains an overview of the novel’s central landscape in its “season of blooming,” its “bees . . . in seventh heaven,” before walking down the hill toward his daughter, engrossed in her gardening “among the flowers” (216–17). The ducks and geese are on the pond, “visitors from afar,” but no other people are in sight. He halts at the border fence, honoring Lucy’s independence, and watches her work alongside her “snoozing” watchdog, Katy. His imagination and reason work together to produce a remarkable four-part instance of Richard’s second level of contemplation. The scene’s mood matches his imagined music for the young Teresa: “lushly autumnal yet edged with irony . . .” (181).

David’s eye goes first to “the milky, blue-veined skin and broad, vul- nerable tendons of the backs of her knees, the least beautiful part of a woman’s body, the least expressive, and therefore perhaps the most endearing” (217). Unsurprisingly, his vision begins at an unattractive low point; his curdled imagination isolates the “least beautiful” body part, as it often has when David sought to protect his isolation and superiority. Even the fact that he finds it “endearing” is ambiguous, since this could

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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mark his characteristic condescension toward women as easily as a fresh turn toward grace and the future. Ditto the beginning of Lucy’s transfor- mation into a peasant that follows, a transformation repeating that of the imagined contadina Teresa (181) as she moved “beyond honor” to the disgrace that ultimately enabled her assertion of free selfhood. In Teresa’s aria David listens to the voice of an authentic other, and the hidden, declining Byron completes the triangle; in this portrait Lucy and her hid- den, waxing child are honored in their separate integrity in David’s vision.

For all of the novel’s controlled, clean prose, the scene follows the path of Teresa’s monologue arias in yet another way, operatically soaring past loss and degradation to discovery. Here the “peasant” comparison sparks the idea of the “immemorial” that will expand as the vision unfolds. David then imagines, lyrically, Lucy’s entire existence, from “tadpole” to the “solid” woman now before him that carries a future: a child who will continue a “line of existences.” David knows that his “share” in the line will “inexorably” be forgotten, yet in another rising turn he sees himself “a grandfather. A Joseph. Who would have thought it!” (217). Like the Virgin’s husband, David hopes to be a useful bystander in the birth of a new generation.28

Continuing the up-and-down rhythm of his vision, David then thinks, conventionally, of his inability to lure a pretty girl to his bed once more, but, as with his early reservations, this tired line of thought gives way to affirmation. Instead of imagining a blood grandchild, he imagines adopt- ing and accepting Lucy’s child, fathered in hatred and violence. As we have seen, Lucy’s single description of her rapists concentrated on their look of utter hostility: she anticipated what the sexual assault would be like, but not the vision-as-hatred that came with it. So the weight of the passage falls instead on David placing himself in a new line of descent, one arising from a violent act that he abhors but which nonetheless creates a future (“What will it entail, being a grandfather?”).

Ever the literary man, David muses on instructing himself in grandfa- thering by rereading Hugo, even as he had mused on being the “shadow- father” to Soraya’s children (6). He tallies up the reasons for his predicted “below average” success; he lacks “the virtues of the old: equanimity, kindliness, patience” (217). Yet this vision, and the book’s last scene, both show him to be practicing just these virtues: a wish fulfilled? Then he offers a strange idea: that the “virtue of passion” might fade as these more equitable virtues rise in him. It suddenly makes us re-see David’s first “vision of eros”: passion — its natural rightness in the face of the preju- diced judicial committee, its integrity as represented in the vision of Blake (69) and the fable of the male dog whipped for desire (90).29 But now “passion” can no longer stand as a separate, self-justifying virtue, but must be integrated with love and forbearance and respect for the irreducible

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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otherness of its object. It must be refigured in a wider notion of the “vision of eros,” one that embraces all desire from the sexual to the self- lessly loving.30 The roots of his vision run right through the book, in every scene.

Then “the wind drops” and his vision climaxes in

a moment of utter stillness which he would wish prolonged for ever: the gentle sun, the stillness of mid-afternoon, bees busy in a field of flowers, and at the centre of the picture a young woman, das ewig Weibliche, lightly pregnant, in a straw sunhat. A scene ready-made for a Sargent or a Bonnard. City boys like him; but even city boys can recognize beauty when they see it, can have their breath taken away. (218)

The setting is Wordsworthian, but the main weight falls on the pictorial as great painters might envision, and on David’s involuntary associations with Faust and Richard of St. Victor, his aesthetic and visionary frames. Lucy metamorphoses from a thick-kneed unattractive woman to an arche- typal peasant to Goethe’s last, overriding archetype of the “eternal femi- nine,” an oxymoronically “lightly pregnant” young woman that saves Faust from narcissistic passion and hatred and carries him to a higher world. Her “broad, vulnerable tendons” have become beautiful, trans- formed by contemplation into a vision worthy of two worldly painters (though not an imitation of them). The narration balances David’s aes- thetic self-consciousness and postmodern skepticism with his genuine rapture. Like the two veteran painters he too may be a sophisticated “city boy,” but the vision literally took his breath away, translated him for a moment from our “breathing world” to the spiritual kingdom of Byron’s fallen angel (32), or of Boito’s Mefistofele, defeated by the ewig Weibliche and rose-scattering cherubim — and then decisively returned him to time, self-consciousness, and Lucy. The subjunctive verb “would wish” positions him perfectly; were it not for the finally more valuable quotidian reality of the scene, he might well wish for the vision’s “timeless beauty” to never end.

David ends his meditation with a brief inquiry in which he tries to unite the good and the beautiful. He reviews the history of his own gazing — only “pretty girls” — and the paucity of that history leads to the pivotal ethical and aesthetic question: “Is it too late to educate the eye?” to see as I just have, and then to act on that vision? David begins an answer by call- ing out again to his daughter, who, in a final addition to the ewig Weibliche portrait, “looks the picture of health.” After a dozen earlier accounts of her aging, unattractive body, the change is remarkable. Her formal but friendly offer of tea marks a new beginning of their relationship: “Visitorship, visitation: a new footing, a new start” (218). “Visitation” places us first in the realm of parents and children meeting on new footing after separation and divorce; then in religion, when the Virgin visited

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Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist (the second “joyful mystery” of the rosary). Elizabeth (or Mary) sang “The Song of Hannah,” a poem- prayer (1 Samuel 2:1–10) giving thanks to Yahweh for the birth of her son, Samuel: A word, a contemplation, and an action worthy of Richard of St. Victor.31

Put thematically, grace may be present near this narrative’s end, but disgrace does not vanish; David’s self-pronounced sentence of “disgrace without term” (172) remains in force. Pessimistic? — perhaps, if by pes- simism we mean a distrust of all fables of steady, upward human progress and any easy, settled connection between self-knowledge and action in the world.32 Optimistic? — perhaps, if by optimism we mean that human change for the better is possible, if fitful; and that one’s habitual actions can be altered, though rarely obliterated; that love in any form can proffer meaning. Richard of St. Victor’s account of the “unknowing” that carries the visionary past rational knowledge, and then of the memory of that “unknowing,” attains a Proustian subtlety that illuminates David’s encounter:

And although we may retain in memory something from that experience and see it through a veil, as it were, and as though in the middle of a cloud, we lack the ability to comprehend or call to mind either the man- ner of seeing or the quality of the vision. And marvelously, in a way remembering, we do not remember; and not remembering, we remem- ber . . . (Benjamin Major, IV, 23)

V

Don’t you become like someone called in from the street, a beggar, for instance, offered fifty kopeks to dispose of an old blind dog, who takes the rope and ties the noose and strokes the dog to calm it . . . and as he does so feels a current of feeling begin to flow, so that from that instant onward he and the dog are no longer strangers, and what should have been a mere job of work has turned into the blackest betrayal . . .?

— J. M. Coetzee, The Master of Petersburg, 99

It’s as accurate a measure as any of a society: what is the smallest act of kindness that is considered heroic?

— Anne Michaels. Fugitive Pieces, 162

Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentum mortalia tangunt. — Aeneid I, 461–62 and Disgrace, 162

As we approach the novel’s final scene, and the hard questions about desire, ethics, and literary form that it raises, I want to round out this

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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account of the visionary in Disgrace with one final way of reading its dynamics. I apologize for introducing yet another angle of vision at the eleventh hour, but I think that Charles Altieri gives us an important, spe- cifically literary way to understand the ethical connection between lyric vision and David’s actions with the dogs, between the visionary and ethical praxis:

Literary modes like lyric often ask us to participate in states that are either too elemental or too transcendental or too absolute or too satisfyingly self-absorbed to engage ethical criticism. Yet these states can have enor- mous impact on how and why we are concerned with values of all kinds . . . at their richest these works explore the limitations of all judgmental stances by requiring complex blends of sympathy and distance, and hence eliciting our fascination with extreme states of mind while complicating any possible grasp of how one might put such states into the categories of commensurability upon which ethical judgments may ultimately depend.33

While analyses of ethics in narrative almost always turn on questions of agency — a character’s, an author’s, a reader’s — Altieri develops the idea that the lyrical experience can shape those states that typically come before any of our specific actions. So, at first, David’s vision of a meaningful future as accepting father and loving grandparent — familial, life-celebrat- ing, desirable — may seem to stand in sharp contrast to his future-erasing decision to euthanize Driepoot this week rather than next. Altieri’s account, however, lets us see them as of a piece; David’s visionary experi- ences prepare him, in Bev Shaw’s “condilectio” company, to see Driepoot clearly as a doomed animal with a pain-filled life, not as his private pet or sentimental companion. Visionary love is not blind; it integrates and clarifies, and like great lyric prepares the way for action. David can at last separate his desire from the need to control the desired; making the dog an exception would be in the service of his old narcissism, not his love. He now desires not to desire in the old, narrow ways. This enables him to act on what he knows, even — especially — if that action is not self- gratifying. His love is what Richard of St. Victor called “violent”: abso- lute, and ruthless, in a spiritual stage beyond the immediate “blackest betrayal” sensed by The Master of Petersburg’s beggar in my epigraph. Disgrace shows us how lyrical envisioning provides a space in the spirit from which ethical choices can emerge without diminishing their painful complexity.

Finally, there’s the significance of Disgrace’s organization, the formal side of what Coetzee termed “grace allegorizing itself in our world.” Its twenty-four chapters match the twenty-four dogs that Bev and David put down on the book’s final day, with the limping, “incomplete” Driepoot matching the three-legged final chapter, seemingly incomplete in action and in meaning. It’s a formal gesture that confirms the novel’s uncompro-

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mising, austere conclusion. For some it’s a disgraceful ending, leaving readers morally uncertain and aesthetically dissatisfied, just as its account of South Africa’s still-divided and violent culture has angered other citizens anxious for brighter visions of their country’s future. But a careful reading complicates these claims for frustrating incompleteness or defeatist cultural analysis. It’s easy to imagine that David’s future, “unreconstructed” life in the harsh new South Africa will include further backsliding as well as fur- ther harijan service; Richard’s “virtuous shame” of disgrace remains, but it has enabled David’s vision of a new family and loving loyalty to the unwanted dogs. His knowing visions align with Altieri’s account of lyric’s rich dynamic: greater sympathy and greater distance together. In Age of Iron Elizabeth Curren, seeking to aid the homeless Mr. Vercueil and the young black rebel John, describes herself as “full enough to give and to give from one’s fullness,” and claims that “One must love what is nearest. One must love what is to hand, as a dog loves” (7, 190). By stripping himself of distorted stories of desire, and by his openness to visions of animal love, “immortal longing,” and his daughter’s independent future, David arrives at a similar place. His final words, “I am giving him up,” are poised in the present between intention and completion.34 This abrupt finish, its “limping” incompleteness echoing David’s opera, at the same time preserves openness to the future. We have concluded our journey through disgrace’s many permutations, but David’s future, like South Africa’s, remains in suspension.

Coetzee’s consistent reliance on the visionary throughout his fictions is part of his strong resistance to reductive materialism, and to any single- level, monologic accounts of subjectivity and ethics, politics and history. More particularly, in Disgrace, he probes the complex relationships between desire, vision, and the ethical. Desire is often at odds with the latter two, as in David’s city-bred gazing or in his exploitation of Melanie. Unreflective gazing can make desire a self-justifying anchor of action, while the ethical may seem to refuse desire altogether. But Disgrace doesn’t rest in a puritanical account of this subject; controlled or sup- pressed desire doesn’t by itself lead to the good life. Instead it explores how the visionary and the ethical require desire’s energy and drive toward an imagined future to meet their aims: vision as eros, understood in the widest terms. By showing this Coetzee makes a place for the visionary within his chastened, clear-sighted humanism. It gives him an allegorical route for preserving the discoveries of a medieval mystic and three Romantic poets in his writing without reviving them forcibly, or accepting them in an uncritical way. It also lets him explore “horizontally” the sym- metries between artistic and religious vision, and to connect both to ethical action, to seeing things anew. It is still not too late to “take our breath away” (218), and to do so without taking away our skepticism, our convic- tions, or our educated eye.

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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Notes 1 “Interview” (on Kafka’s “The Burrow”) in Doubling the Point, 203. 2 “Interview” (on “The Poetics of Reciprocity”) in Doubling the Point, 57. It’s also worth mentioning that Coetzee, a Protestant by heritage, received his secondary education at a Marist high school in Cape Town. 3 There is the tantalizing case of Richard’s first Abbot, one Ernisius, who was accused of “misconduct” and eventually dismissed from the Augustinian monas- tery of St. Victor by a papal commission. The misconduct was apparently more administrative than erotic, but Ernisius’s “disgrace” resonates teasingly for readers of David’s story. The charges against him included “appointing his favorites to office and acting in prejudicial ways” (Zinn, “Introduction,” 4), perhaps the monastic equivalents of David’s institutional offenses. (Richard himself is credited with a work with another provocative title: Liber Penitentialis I.) 4 By choosing these titles Richard places himself directly in line with his famous predecessor: Hugh of St. Victor’s On the Moral Ark of Noah and On the Mystical Ark of Noah also trace the stages of the contemplative life. 5 Matt. 11:29: quoted by Richard in Benjamin Minor, chapter 46. 6 That shame counts as a virtue in Richard’s scheme does not mean that it func- tions only in the righteous: “Even perverse men have shame, but if only it were good, if only it were ordered! For if they had good shame [what Dinah represents], perhaps they would not be perverse” (Benjamin Minor, 46). 7 He treats disgrace as a subset of shame (Benjamin Minor, 67). 8 South African writer Zakes Mda’s novel The Madonna of Excelsior (2004) offers an intriguing parallel. Niki, the lead character, was raped and impregnated by an Afrikaner farmer thirty years earlier (the well-known “Immorality Act” trial of 1971). In the novel’s present she accepts a ride from her attacker, and they discuss, without resolution, the possibilities of forgiveness. 9 “Interview” (on “The Poetics of Reciprocity”) in Doubling the Point, 63. 10 David’s theory of poetry, which he crassly uses to seduce Melanie Isaacs, rests on the equation between the poem’s “flash of revelation” and the listener’s “flash of response. Like lightning. Like falling in love” (13). But in practice his own language-focused interpretation of poetry concentrates on craft, not revelation. 11 The recent book Toward a Theology of Eros: Transfiguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline, edited by Virginia Burrus and Catherine Keller, places this tradition in theology in a fresh context. 12 De Trinitate, III, xix, in Zinn, 392. As C. S. Lewis’s The Allegory of Love attests, “love” was a hot topic throughout the twelfth century. 13 Postmodernism, 167–68. I’m equally indebted to Dominic Head’s excellent discussion of postmodern allegory in his J. M. Coetzee. See also Bill Brown’s remarkable PMLA essay on the religious and the medieval in Jameson himself: “The Dark Wood of Postmodernity (Space, Faith, Allegory).” 14 Here, and in several other scenes, the reader remembers that St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind.

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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15 This is a familiar Coetzee theme: the Magistrate in Waiting for the Barbarians enjoyed the “easy morals of the oases” of Empire, “the long-scented summer eve- nings, the complaisant sloe-eyed women. Later that promiscuity modulated into more discreet relations with housekeepers and girls lodged sometimes upstairs in my rooms but more often downstairs with the kitchen help . . .” But the outcome was the same: “Desire seemed to bring with it a pathos of distance and separation which it was futile to deny” (45). 16 David cites the Church Fathers’ view of animals’ souls (78), for example, in addition to these saints. St. Hubert’s story, which David doesn’t quite have right, gives us another womanizer brought to his full character by a remarkable vision. The gay blade Hubert (656–727), the eldest son of Bertrand, Duke of Aquitaine, and grandson of Charibert, King of Toulouse, married Floribanne, daughter of Dagobert, Count of Louvain, and seemed to have given himself entirely up to the pomp and vanities of this world. But a great spiritual revolu- tion was imminent. “On Good Friday morn, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnifi- cent stag, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: ‘Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell.’ Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, ‘Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?’ He received the answer, ‘Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you” (C. F. W. Brown, The Catholic Encyclopedia). St. Hubert, of course, is a patron saint of hunters, but also animal lovers and caregivers; he cured dogs of hydrophobia. 17 Several readers have commented on the similarities between David’s trial and the hearings of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. See, for example, Rosemary Jolly, “Going to the Dogs: Humanity in J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, The Lives of Animals, and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in Poyner, 148–71. 18 There are several other possible operatic sources for David’s composition. For example, Virgil Thompson wrote a three-act opera on Byron. It has a simple melodic style, and uses pastiche and popular tunes, such as “Auld Lang Syne” and “Ach du lieber Augustine”: banjo-friendly practices that David/Coetzee may have borrowed. Thompson’s Teresa is a character, but Byron commands the stage throughout. Then there’s the libretto “Lord Byron’s Love Letter” (1955) by Tennessee Williams, set by composer Raffaello de Banfield. It features an old woman and her granddaughter who have one love letter of Byron’s that they show only to paying customers. Its music is also a pastiche: Puccini, Strauss, and Menotti. New York Times reviewer Tim Page, after a performance at the 1986 Spoleto festi- val, remarked that Williams and de Banfield deserved equal credit for the work’s obscurity. 19 This strongly resembles Coetzee’s description of his own artistic process: “Writing is not free expression. There is a true sense in which writing is dialogic: a matter of awakening the countervoices in oneself and embarking upon speech with

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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them. It is some measure of a writer’s seriousness whether he does evoke/invoke these countervoices in himself, that is, step down from the position of what Lacan calls ‘the subject supposed to know’” (“The Poetics of Reciprocity” in Doubling the Point, 65). 20 Is this a suggestive symmetry with the three rapists, giving another, deliberately vague glimpse into the future of South Africa? 21 Gervais Dumeige, Richard de Saint-Victor et l’idée chrétienne de l’amour, 90, 31. 22 For admirers of Barry Lopez it also brings to mind his 1989 Apologia, a medita- tion on the many “road kill” animals he has removed from American highways and honored as best he could. 23 Timothy Frances Strode’s stimulating account of space and the ethical makes much the same point: “I will be much more interested in ‘exteriority,’ a term related implicitly to the idea of exile, to an orientation outward . . . toward a beyond that is ethically, domestically, and geographically opposed to, or better yet, other to propriety and possession. . . . In ethical terms, my focus will turn toward the idea of hospitality, an ethical orientation that could be said to begin to manifest itself to the degree that propriety — the moral form that best characterizes the ethical orientation of territoriality — absents itself” (178). 24 Cadmus was a young rescuer of Zeus, while Harmony was the daughter of Aphrodite and sister of Eros; their wedding marked the last time, in myth, that all the Olympian gods and living men sat at the same banquet table and toasted one another. In old age their deep eros turned Cadmus and Harmony into intertwined snakes, an image that recalls David’s totem animal (Calasso, 381ff.). 25 Lucy Valerie Graham (2003, 438) reads this paternal feeling as a further instance of David’s patriarchal claim on Melanie as “his property,” and links his emotions solely to the satisfactions of power, not as genuine, if transferred, fatherly pride. By extension, this would level out David’s vision and his subsequent pick-up of the prostitute, lumping them together as yet more examples of his claims of privilege and control. It denies, or rather reduces, any potentially praiseworthy feeling in David’s psyche to an expression of dominance, sublimated or direct. Graham’s David, like Farodia Rasool’s David in the university “inquiry” scene, must remain representative, and can be made acceptable only in accordance with a certain script. His claim that with Melanie he experienced “something generous that was doing its best to flower” (89) cannot be accepted at face value. 26 Major I, 3 and V, 2. Consider also this lovely passage from Major II, 5, which could pass as a description of David’s character at this moment, and arguably of the novel as a whole: “We are easily able to grasp a working of nature. As in grasses, in trees and in animals: in grasses, how they grow and mature; in trees, how they leaf out blossom and bear fruit; in animals, how they conceive and give birth, how some grow and others die. . . . An artificial work is considered a work of human activity, as in engraving, in painting, in writing, in agriculture and in other artificial works, in all of which we find many things for which we ought worthily to venerate and marvel at the dignity of a divine gift. And so, because they cooperate mutually

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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with each other, natural work and artificial work are joined to each other on the sides, as it were from the side, and are united together in themselves by mutual contemplation.” 27 The leaves recall Iliad VI, and Glaucon’s oft-quoted parable of the generations passing as leaves, but more pertinently the rose petals of love that the chorus of women (cherubim in Boito) cast down on the great negator Mephistopheles in Faust, driving him away with eros. 28 Richard’s typology in Benjamin Minor, chapter 70, gives us an allegorical Joseph embodying the “discretion” and “complete self-knowledge,” the “care and keeping of all his brothers,” and “the foresight of future things.” Joseph knows “the vices of the heart and the infirmities of the body,” knowledge hard-won by David as well. 29 Elizabeth Curren extends this figure in a remarkable way in Age of Iron, Coetzee’s novel preceding Disgrace and its spiritual twin: “This letter has become a maze, and I a dog in the maze, scurrying up and down the branches and tunnels, scratching and whining at the same old places, tiring, tired. Why do I not call for help, call to God? Because God cannot help me. God is looking for me but he cannot reach me. God is another dog in the maze. I smell God and God smells me. I am the bitch in her time, God the male. God smells me, he can think of nothing else but finding me and taking me” (137–38). 30 Here is Faust himself, in the epilogue of Boito’s Mefistofele: “Ogni mortal”: Every mortal / mystery I have savored, / The real, the Ideal, / the love of a maiden, / the love of a goddess. . . . Yes. / But Reality brought suffering / and the Ideal was a dream. / Having reached the last step / of extreme old age, / my soul now delights / in a final dream: / king of a tranquil world, / of a boundless expanse, / I want to give life / to a fruitful people.” Translation supervised by Gwyn Morris. 31 See also Rita Barnard. “Coetzee’s Country Ways,” 390. 32 See Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit. 33 Charles Altieri. “Lyrical Ethics and Literary Experience.” 34 See Mark Sanders, “Disgrace,” 363–73, esp. 368.

Encountering Disgrace : Reading and Teaching Coetzee’s Novel, edited by Bill McDonald, Boydell & Brewer, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csusb/detail.action?docID=3003700. Created from csusb on 2018-01-17 14:04:00.

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