CFP: Writing in the Middle Voice: J. M. Coetzee's Fictions (6/15/06; collection)

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Call for papers

"Writing in the Middle Voice": J. M. Coetzee's Fictions

Delivering the Presentation Speech for the 2003 Nobel Prize in literature awarded to J.M.Coetzee, Per Wästberg himself a writer said: "To write is to awaken counter-voices within oneself, and to dare enter into dialogue with them. The dangerous attraction of the inner self is John Coetzee's theme: the senses and bodies of people, the interiority of Africa. "To imagine the unimaginable" is the writer's duty. As a post-modern allegorist, Coetzee knows that novels that do not seek to mimic reality best convince us that reality exists." These words not only speak volumes about Coetzee's art but also underline the compelling situation in which Coetzee, as a postcolonial author writes. If a creative writer is the conscience keeper of humanity we have many others like Coetzee in the annals of human history who have raised questions of ethics, justice, morality and value in a divided society. Even where these categories have no meaning they become forceful and effective when present!
 ed through the shrill voice of a writer. The situation becomes problematic when by colour and race one is identified with the regime of oppression but by conviction is always with the oppressed. Questions pertinent here are: does such an author find his true voice? What type of articulation and authority does that voice carry? What narrative style does such a voice select? Although it is not easy to answer these questions in a definite way as the problematic intersects power and powerlessness it is possible to explore through authorial location the articulating voice.

Coetzee's novels follow the narrative strategy of "writing in the middle voice." In his words: "[t]o write (middle) is to carry out the action (or better, to do writing) with reference to the self" (Attwell Doubling 94). Macaskill's "Charting the Middle Voice: In the Heart of the Country" focuses on the "speculative linguistic" phenomena of the "middle voice", which is a writing position between the "active" (such as in the declaration "I write") and the passive ("it is written"). Thus it approximates Magda's ambivalent claim to be "the medium, the median" (HC 133) who is caught somewhere between seeing her existence as a series of "citational practices" or as real and "beyond" words themselves. Looking at the notion of the "middle voice" in Coetzee's writing, Dovey also argues that all Coetzee's novels are "always making reference to the self of writing" and that they "exploit the notion of the divided subject of Lacan, the split between text and narration, or utterance and!
  enunciation, in order to gesture towards the possibility of escaping complicity with the dominant discourses" ("J. M. Coetzee", quoted from Fiona Probyn Jouvert7.1,2002). Besides the liminality of location and self-reflexivity of the authorial self, writing itself is rendered problematic in Coetzee's novels in that language, style and narrative patterns draw attention for further exploration. "What is written" overtakes "writing" as an activity, as it embodies the conflicts and contradictions of marginality, race, gender, ethics, law, justice and other values by which a society governs itself. Having been placed in a complex situation, Coetzee declares that he writes without authority. Not only that he transgresses the authority of the state but also the norms of "writing" itself in articulating the voices of the silent while representing the unrepresentable.

Keeping in view the importance of Coetzee as a postcolonial author who is sensitive to many complex issues of a divided society and having a style of his own using in some cases autobiographical material, I would like to invite papers on his fictional works for a volume titled "Writing in the Middle Voice": J.M Coetzee's Fictions" to be published by December 2006. The contributors may select a theme for example gender, race, marginality and so on or write a theoretical paper on postcolonial condition and Coetzee's narrative voice or combine more than one work of Coetzee developing a thematic perspective or attempt a comparative essay. They may also write on individual texts. For the benefit of the contributors a full list of Coetzee's works is given below:

Dusklands . Ravan Press (Johannesburg), 1974
In the Heart of the Country . Secker & Warburg, 1977
Waiting for the Barbarians. Secker & Warburg, 1980
Life & Times of Michael K . Secker & Warburg, 1983
A Land Apart: A South African Reader . (editor with André Brink) Faber and Faber, 1986
Foe. Secker & Warburg, 1986
White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa. Yale University Press, 1988
Age of Iron. Secker & Warburg, 1990
Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews. Harvard University Press, 1992
The Master of Petersburg. Secker & Warburg, 1994
Giving Offense: A Study of Literary Censorship. University of Chicago Press, 1996
Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life. Secker & Warburg, 1997
Disgrace. Secker & Warburg, 1999
The Lives of Animals . Princeton University Press, 1999
Stranger Shores: Literary Essays 1986-1999 . Secker, 2001
Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II . Secker & Warburg, 2002
Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons. Secker & Warburg, 2003
Landscape with Rowers: Poetry from the Netherlands. (translator) Princeton University Press, 2004
Slow Man. Secker & Warburg, 2005

Last date for submission of articles is 15th June 2006. Please inform the editor on the title of your paper by the end of March 2006 to avoid duplication of articles on themes and texts. The articles should be sent through E-mail. If a hard copy is submitted a soft copy in Windows Word 98 or 2000 format should accompany it.

Note: Mere submission of an article does not guarantee inclusion of the same in the volume. At least two reviewers will review all submissions before the final selection is made. The decision of the editor is final in the selection of articles.

Editor of the volume: Kailash C. Baral
Contact Address: Kailash C. Baral
                             Professor in English and Director
                            CIEFL, NE Campus
                            NEHU Permanent Complex, Umshing
                            Shillong - 793022, India
                            Mobile- 91+09436117351
                            E-Mail: and

About the editor:
Kaialsh C. Baral is Professor of English and Director of the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL), Northeast Campus at Shillong. He has authored Sigmund Freud: A Study of His Theory of Art and Literature (1994) and edited Humanities and Pedagogy: Teaching of Humanities Today (2002), Interpretation of Texts: text, meaning and interpretation (2002) and Earth Songs: Stories from Northeast India (2005). He has co-edited Theory and Praxis: Curriculum, Culture and English Studies (2003), Reflections on Literature, Criticism and Theory (2004), U.R.Anantha Murthy's Samskara: A Critical Reader (2005). His articles on critical theory, cultural studies and postcolonial literatures are published in India and abroad and also included in many anthologies.

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Received on Fri Feb 24 2006 - 11:27:39 EST